Winning Entry for Design Competition

  • Design and construction of a new, custom built, world class 'green' building which will not only enhance the Business School's reputation but also that of the NMMU precinct and specifically the 2nd Avenue Campus.

  • Client: Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University
    Architects: The Workplace Architects in association with GAPP Architects
    Quantity Surveyors: Turner and Townsend Quantity Surveyors
    Engineers: Arup Engineering
    Location of Project: 2nd Avenue Campus, NMMU, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
    Date of Completion: 2011 to current

NMMU Business School


This project is a result of a competition winning entry to a design competition for a new Business School for the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU). The brief called for an approximately 5500m2 ‘world class’ and ‘green’ building that would not only enhance the Business School’s reputation but also that of the Second Avenue Campus. Cognisance was given to the broader strategy and development planning of the Business School described in its vision, mission, values and ‘Change Tomorrow’ strategy. Therefore, the new building at its conception, responds directly and positively to the principles of sustainability, integration, dignity, safety, security and efficiency. We have also endeavored for this new building to express these values visibly in its use, in its institutional strategies and spatial and built form.

Our starting point for this project was in locating the structure in a way that minimized negative impacts and maximized benefits. To achieve this, the building was positioned not on the open playing fields (that was preferred by many) but rather on the already degraded existing parking area. This decision allowed for a range of positive ‘master plan’ and long term benefits such as maintaining the positive affects of the sports fields, the moving of large parking areas to the rear of the site, creating a new front aspect to the Campus and starting to align the Campus with the NMMU’s recently approved Development Framework. As a typology, the courtyard building seemed a naturally urban and advantageous type, allowing for a building in the round that responded to its four different sides appropriately and also allowed for a private, controlled external space in the middle that is specifically for the new Business School. Related to this is the deliberate decision for the building’s exterior to take a monumental ‘mass’ appearance that is of a civic nature related to specific edges whilst the inside elevations are light or and more humanly scaled. So this is largely an introspective building – looking inward to the courtyard and public foyers and giving some glimpses of this and links to the interior. The north elevation responds to a new access driveway and the busy Second Avenue, the west to the new parking area for the new Business School, the south to the existing Campus structures and the east, the most open and light of the elevations, responds to the sports fields and sea views. It is this east elevation that is the welcoming new face to the new Business School and the Second Avenue Campus that one faces approaching the Campus from Second Avenue from the east. This elevation is composed of monumental columns supporting the lightweight forth floor.
Where the exterior is spatially and physically severe and experienced as a composition of mass elements, the interior and courtyard are spatially more diverse, with a variety of volumes, ‘space beyond space’ and multiple and unusual light sources. The finishing of the building also reflects this design decision – the exterior is of a single face brick with flush jointed tinted mortar to match the brick, where the interior is more varied with a range of lighter neutral colours and textures. The courtyard is planted with creepers that conceal water tanks and five round feature gardens representing the five floral biomes that are in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality area.

An important part of the project and something that has been integrated into the project from the earliest stage is an appropriate and contemporary response to environmental issues and sustainability. This has manifested itself in the aim for this building to be awarded a Green Star 4 rating and assist the NMMU realigning its building program and existing Campuses to its environmental ambitions. Much of this is attended to in the design by passive environmental design decisions including orientations, massing, insulation and material choice. The building is deliberately neutral to the west to avoid western glare on windows and block westerly and south westerly winds, except for the entrance wind lobby that is experienced as a void on this elevation linking parking to building. Large sloping glass sections to the north and western sides of the courtyard allow light into the classroom foyers and the southern internal elevation steps to allow northern light deep into the building, especially in winter.

It is intended that this building be operational in 2014 and it is hoped that it will make a positive change not only to its users but the Campus wherein it is located.