The new free standing gallery annex is a functional extension of the existing gallery, located in Rosebank. The building consists of a single flexible gallery space, storage, business lounge, offices and patio roof. It is designed to display modes of art such as video installations and large scale sculptures and can host global art auctions. In addition the building may be made available as a multipurpose space for public and private functions or events that will elevate its public stature.
The building responds to the global resources debate in that will be largely self servicing. Electricity is produced on site using solar voltaic panels, harvested rain water is used for all but drinking water, and solar heated hot water will be used for space heating. Council energy and water is connected only as a backup measure. The oval shape of the building renders the most floor space for façade and gives it its distinctive form. Various aluminum extrusions resembling reeds give the building its unique architectural character.
The site where the gallery is located is rather narrow and therefore required the architects, studioMAS, to cleverly work around this main constraint. The studioMAS team rose to the challenge by opting for an elliptical form which not only took full advantage of the narrow site but also allowed the building to make an architectural statement leading to its development as a landmark. The elliptical form, whose inspiration comes from nature’s paradox of order in chaos, moulds itself around the narrow site- a form that responds positively to its immediate surroundings while maximizing on the little space that was available for the development.
The gallery houses programs on 3 levels: On the ground floor is the public craft exhibition space that covers about 106m2. The first floor houses several exhibition spaces on a double volume. This multi-purpose hall has movable display screens that allow it to take different configurations according to the function envisioned. This part of the building occupies 177.76m2. To cap it off, the top floor houses a private lounge and deck on 105m2. From here, one can look down onto the dense urban fabric of Johannesburg.
Access to the upper levels is through a perimeter ramp that takes one from the public hall on the ground floor to the double volume halls on the first floor and further to the deck at the top. The ramp creates different views and experiences for the users along its winding path to the top while also adding to the iconic image of the building.
The main façade of the building features vertical aluminum fins which embrace the elliptical form. This results in a prominent façade that is not only rhythmical but also porous as it allows light from the surroundings to slit into the exhibition spaces through the spaces between the fins. Conversely, during the evenings, light filters outwards from the inside of the gallery onto the street giving the building its landmark silhouette against the vibrant Jo’Burg backdrop.
The project set out to challenge the local perceptions of art and art galleries. In an attempt to respond to these perceptions, the gallery is envisioned and built as a part of the city, its art and its people. Its flexible design means that its programs will evolve hand in hand with the art of South Africa.