The elegant creation of the Constantia Waldorf School’s dance and primary school hall perfectly displays the incredibly diverse nature of clay face brick – where a simple solid building block can be artfully constructed into a seemingly flowing structure, cleverly mirroring form with function and mood.
“It was important to me that the dynamic forms of dance hall embody the same sense of movement as that of the dancers, like a flowing sculptural garment,” explained architect Keith Struthers from Natural Architecture. “The undulating brick lines and meandering surfaces are ideal for expressing this sense of lively movement. The back wall, for example, changes from being a single curved surface into doubly curved surface while the brick coursing gradually moves from horizontal to arching as the wall becomes more sculptural.”
The bricks are used in a completely unique way to conventional practice and are a first, leading to sculptural brick work never before seen. The brick coursing consistently deviates from the horizontal, waving up and down and simultaneously off vertical in places to match the curving roof profiles and elsewhere to match the helix beam carrying the floating roof. Here each brick course is in the pattern of a helix, allowing for the warping of surfaces in certain places, with single and double curves in other areas. This particular design required unique templates and bricklaying techniques to achieve this elevated level of brick craftsmanship. The twisting wooden door is, itself, a warped surface built into this plane of undulating walls.
The clever use of clay face brick in this really intricately designed school hall is a great visual representation of the brick’s versatile nature,” said Christie van Niekerk, Corobrik’s Western Cape manager. “Aesthetically, it actually depicts the dance movement which the hall will be used for, but the choice of clay face brick goes even further than that. Acoustically, the noise insulation properties of clay will work with the building’s design to create a fantastic musical venue, while the insulated foundations and sub-walls with the thermal insulation properties of the bricks will keep these young performers warm in the Cape winters and cool during the summer months.”
The 250m2 building, which took nine months to construct, was designed by Cape Town-based firm, Natural Architecture, with a view to create a school hall that eloquently expresses the Waldorf School ethos of nurturing creativity, individuality and originality.
Every aspect of this intricate brickwork was generated from numerous 3D computer drawings with each inch of the hall carefully calculated. On-site workers had to meticulously cut hundreds of bricks individually – positioning the brick in place, marking it, cutting it and then building it in. This required accurate cutting of every brick, with some being feathered into wedge shapes to work around horizontal plinths or columns.
To complete the school hall, 16 000 of Corobrik’s Meadow pavers were used on the building’s exterior, breaking up the vertical proportion of the walls while adding a decorative line. This visually supports the eye, allowing identification of the flow of surfaces above and below the corbel. The pavers’ slightly deeper shade also added variation to the wall surfaces.
“The clay paving works really well against the face brick, enhancing the aesthetics while also bringing a number of associated benefits,” concluded Corobrik’s Van Niekerk. “The visual aspect will remain for years because of the colour fastness and there is improved safety for children walking along the pavement because of the skid-resistant quality, even in wet weather.”