Umvoto Africa returns to its roots
In choosing its new headquarters, consultancy rises with the tide of Muizenberg development
THE LATEST addition to the revival of the Muizenberg beachfront is a sensitively refurbished new headquarters for earth and water sciences consultancy Umvoto Africa.
The double-storey former Toy Museum at 8 Beach Road was originally designed in 1916 by Herbert Baker, Kendall and Morris. Named Aeolia, it was a typical example of South African residential architecture by the firm of Sir Herbert Baker – a solid, sturdy, symmetrical H-plan building.
The north-facing semi-courtyard area was reduced by alterations in 1932 and further renovations in 1949. The building fell into disrepair and was designated one of the many problem buildings by the Muizenberg Improvement District (MID).
During the 1990s, Umvoto sub-let a small section of this Toy Museum building as its office, before buying a hillside Victorian house in Muizenberg. With a growing number of staff, and a stream of young interns from South Africa and abroad, Umvoto decided to invest in this larger property.
Kommetjie- based Lennard & Lennard Architects and Planners designed the refurbishment, with the focus on restoring the historical building to its original glory while creating a stimulating and creative work environment.
They drew on advice from the MID and architectural heritage consultant Peter Büttgens of BGL Architects and kept the symmetrical H plan. Building was undertaken by Revcon Construction.
“We wanted to restore the original symmetry that was lost during subsequent alterations, and to open up the central courtyard area as much as possible,” says architect Stephen Lennard.
“This allows natural light to stream into the double volume reception-atrium area and gently filter into all the offices that lead from it.”
All the existing doors and windows that remained in their original p o s i t i o ns were r e p a i r e d a nd restored, and those that were removed were re-used elsewhere in the building. The three original fire- places were retained and an elegant, carved Oregon stairway adds a touch of grandeur.
Original openings in the balcony and some of the rooms (now the Geographic Information Systems office and lecture room) were reinstalled. There are glorious views of the Kalk Bay mountains and of the beachfront.
A functional, modern touch comes from the Scandi-influenced plywood office furniture made by yo u n g d e s i g n e r s Pe d e r s e n + Lennard – Stephen Lennard’s son, James, is one half of this duo.
Curving, rust-coloured wrought iron has been used to create the entrance gates as well as railings in the central atrium.
Umvoto seeks environmentally acceptable and sustainable solutions for its clients, and this green approach has been implemented in the new building. Following the South African National Standard SANS 140001:2005 guidelines, it has an environmental management systems manual for the office. In practice, this involves interventions such as recycling, limiting the amount of printing, and even planting a kitchen garden for the daily inhouse lunch.
“We always knew this building had enormous potential, and it feels good to be home,” says Umvoto Africa managing director, Rowena Hay. She founded the group in 1992 in a house in Cromer Road, in the same suburb as her company’s new headquarters.
“The sensitive restoration by Lennard & Lennard and their contractors has enhanced our productivity by offering a functional, attractive and healthy working environment. It should also be an excellent investment as Muizenberg continues to enjoy a facelift.”
The new designer surroundings will also complement Umvoto’s inclusion in Cape Town’s World Design Capital 2014 programme. Three of its innovative groundwater projects ( for the Stanford, Hermanus and Oudtshoorn municipalities) have been selected to highlight how design can improve lives. Visit www.umvoto.com.
GRANDE DAME: The old Toy Museum in Muizenberg has been restored and is now the head office of earth and water sciences consultancy, Umvoto Africa.