Umvoto Africa re­turns to its roots

In choos­ing its new head­quar­ters, con­sul­tancy rises with the tide of Muizen­berg de­vel­op­ment

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - PROPERTY -

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

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.

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