An extension to an existing public hospital focuses design attention on the most public areas and turns the building façade into an artwork.
The Rahima Mother and Child Hospital situated in the sprawling suburban landscape of Coronationville, an Apartheid neighbourhood laid out to house Johannesburg’s mixed race inhabitants. The hospital extension for ESRU, a pediatric research unit run in partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand, was designed as a ‘clone’ of the original three-storey blocks at the back of the hospital and replicated to extend the original pattern. This allowed for the major design effort to be directed towards the structure linking the new block to its older sibling, which serves as a public entrance. This emphasis on this new entrance provides a strong commitment to the public life of the hospital, making it welcoming and playful.
Instead of spending donor funding that was unlikely to be replenished on painting the building; it was decided to tile the façade of the structure. In collaboration with architect and artist Lorenzo Nassimbeni a tiling pattern was developed, reflecting the layered suburban landscape in which the building stands. Common white and black tiles are laid out, and interspersed with precious metal mosaics which allude to the history of gold in Johannesburg and to the attribution of value to the public hospital. Despite the fact that the neighbouring blocks are in very close proximity to the linking structure, the tiling of its façade provides each office with a different view onto the artwork, the west light catching the tiles and making them blink and shine.
26’10 project team: Thorsten Deckler, Anne Graupner, Paul Devenish, Isabel van Wyk-de Gouveia, Nicci Labuschagne, Kegan Stokes, Shani Fakir, Carlo van Aardt, Matthew Leichti, Romeo Banza, Christine Brand