Grafting is a technique whereby tissues from one plant are
inserted into those of another to enable two sets of vascular tissues to join together. In order to ensure a successful merge, one or both elements have to be cut or altered.
This analogy of grafting was used for the conceptualization of the timber skyscraper building. The building is grafted into the city fabric by the cutting and shaping of the building mass in order to form a successful merge with its context and surroundings. Cultural elements added to the building-graft act as a catalytic agent which sparks the merge and integration between the urban environment and the housing component of the building.
The role and importance of sporting activities in the city of Durban is evident—also noting that the city is aiming to host the 2020 Olympics. Spaces to accommodate sport activities are therefore inserted into the building in order to act as cultural condensers, social and breathing spaces.
A taxi rank adjacent to the site is currently spilling over onto the site, creating an existing condition which can be utilised. The bottom floors therefor accommodate a taxi rank and a spice market which further strengthens the merging effect between the city and the building. The typical Durban amenity – a spice market—is located above the taxi rank and provides the public and building occupants with a semi-public communal meeting space.
Current trends in tall-timber construction explore timber as either a construction material for loadbearing walls or a material for tall frame construction methods. The proposed design explores the merge of both these methods by proposing two parallel mass walls with vierendeel trusses spanning between the walls. The mass walls are constructed by stacked timber logs which provide for a ventilated mass wall. With the vierendeel trusses placed on every second floor level and the floor joists being both suspended from and supported by the trusses, two plan types emerge from this structural configuration—an organic plan and a rigid plan. This brings a unique character to each floor arrangement– a rare characteristic in mass housing.
The use of local timber, as well as the added cultural and sport functions make this building a truly African skyscraper. The occupants who will live in these spaces and appropriate them will add to the contextual nature of the building as an unusual form of material and infrastructure.