Architecture Fabrik

Architecture Fabrik

Freedom Cafe

and the Concierge Hotel

Tucked behind the gritty commercial zone of Umgeni Road in Durban, lie a series of Victorian workers’ cottages from the late 1800’s. When the client acquired four of these semi-detached units, the brief was to create a boutique hotel with adjoining studios for creative professionals.

With the development being located in a protected heritage zone, the project team was faced with the prejudices and hurdles generally experienced on heritage projects. The challenge therefore, was to restore and revitalise the old, whilst adding additional space that was contemporary in contrast.

Early concepts internalised the activities, creating an oasis by consolidating the backyards of the cottages into a common space. The original design proposed a corrugated-iron-clad box, floating over the cottages defining the entrance to the courtyard that borders the park, but without losing connectivity back to it.

Yet, the project was also to be completed in time for the 2010 World Cup. With only eight weeks left to the opening, and an ever-tightening budget, a recycled shipping container was conceived of an expedient yet iconic solution for creating the reception/hospitality fulcrum for the project.

The container with its intersecting glass box, establishes the hotel reception and café. The new structure is not physically connected to the historic buildings and is set back from the street. This enables a visitor to easily distinguish both the reception, and the “new from the old”, whilst retaining the character of the street and area.

The rotation of the container demarcates a smaller secluded dining courtyard at the back, and opens up dynamically to the courtyard parking and landscaping at the front. Raised on a podium under the shade of an existing fig tree, the container partially floats over the edge of the platform, reinforcing the notion of something placed gently in contrast to the old.


In Association with Don Albert & Partners;

Client: Exclusive Access Trading

Engineers: Bob Tobbell Engineer

Contractors: MCM Construction

Landscaper: Bent Tree Landscape Design

Interior Designer: EGG Designs

Photographer: Martin Kluger (during construction) & Tony Christie (on completion)