An international competition was held to select an architect to design a gallery for the KwaZulu Natal Society of Arts in Durban. Cindy Walters and Michál Cohen both studied architecture in KwaZulu Natal and their detailed understanding of the local climate was an important factor in their selection as winners.
The brief was for a community art gallery that would encourage and promote young artists and create a vibrant and stimulating environment in which to exhibit work from around South Africa. The project called for collaboration with local artists who made up the client body. The success of the project depended on a building that achieved maximum flexibility within a very limited budget.
The site is on the edge of a small park, part of an indigenous green belt running through the city. The simple rectilinear building encloses three interlinked volumes: the gallery, workshops and shop. Articulated timber screens along the circulation route create a veranda and allow the building to open up to the outside, drawing in vital breezes to aid cross-ventilation. The red internal walls represent the blood red earth of the local soil, while the tall, cool spaces provide sanctuary from the harsh climate.
In 2015, almost twenty years after completion, Angela Buckland returned to photograph the gallery. We are delighted to see that it still looks fresh and continues to be a popular destination in the community.