A For Sure Conclusion

According to the papers one of the losers in the R700m CTICC expansion architectural competition is taking the organisers to court. Greg Truen of SAOTA in his formal complaint pointed out A) that VDMMA and Stauch Vorster were very much involved in creating the brief they went on to win and B) that Anya van der Merwe is married to someone closely involved with the CTICC management. Well for those in architectural circles the result of the competition was never really in doubt. However we do feel that more needs to be said about the winning design.

According to Mokena Makeka ""Using the DNA code of the 6210 plant species endemic to the Cape Floristic kingdom plus one dedicated to humanity, 6211 transforms the convention centre into an iconic living artwork that celebrates and raises awareness about humanity and nature for the passive enjoyment of local and global audiences."

That smells more than faintly of post-rationalisation.  What counts, surely, to the "passive enjoyment of local and global audiences" are the forms and spaces in which they find themselves convening. Here the focus appears to be not on the forms or spaces but on an oblique decoratif motif so arcane that few visitors (local or otherwise) will stand any chance of understanding it let alone becoming more "aware" about "humanity and nature". It seems to be rather pretentious and patronising - as does the assertion that such enjoyment (once we have understood the cipher) will be "passive." But it was with Van der Merwe's sound-bite- the new buildings are "a seamless extension of the CTICC"- that our collective hearts dropped and we found ourselves backing Mr Truen. What we don't want, surely, is more of the same; more of the elegantly detailed but frankly uninspiring spaces, more blind windowless sheds to drive past on the elevated free-ways into town. What we see in the four renders submitted to the public is more of the same, updated a bit and given a trite little waggle and a gimmick about DNA. What we wanted, surely, was twofold; an inspiring building to bring people all the way to the tip of the world for an expensive, carbon-loaded alternative to increasingly effective virtual substitutes. And, secondly, an iconic building, something befitting a World Design Capital, a design that talks about its surroundings in a meaningful and accessible way (i.e. not Deoxyribonucleic plant code) and maybe, just maybe, a solution that grasps the gaping opportunity to reconnect a port city with its port - and its mountain with the sea. 

Rashid Toefy's comment is valid: ""Convention and exhibition spaces like the CTICC are our modern day cathedrals or city halls - this is where we go to meet, learn and be inspired." Ironically the winning entry looks more like those other temples to modern vacuity, the shopping mall. Of course we should not be too quick to judge based on a few slick renders but it is worrying when they look like the artist's impression of a rather pompous Westfield. It is not enough to overlay that with a veneer of "symbolism" especially when it is really no more than a code; which, when translated, has little bearing on the forms of the building. We can only hope that our much abused cityscape will be spared another vapid building- though it's a result which, like the competition itself, we would be willing to put money on.