On Trend in Architecture: Mesh

Something we’re seeing more and more in the decor and fashion industries (think adidas Originals’ Deerupt sneakers) are the mesh and grid-patterned design trends. The four buildings below, all situated in Africa, sport a similar aesthetic.

1. PE Opera House, Port Elizabeth

The Port Elizabeth Opera House was originally designed by local architect George William Smith and opened its doors in 1892, making it the oldest theatre in Africa. Four additions followed, and the current building is made up of five parts.

Following extensive consultation with local heritage practitioners and public stakeholders, the design approach, by Albrecht Herholdt and Tony Danev, was to deliberately contrast the old with the new. The vertical and horizontal proportions of the original building are reinterpreted in an elegant stainless steel screen, echoed in the interior stairwell.

2. Moroko Hall Residence, Sol Plaatje University, Kimberley

Image credit: Tristan McLaren.

Image credit: Tristan McLaren.

The architectural language is inspired by the Northern Cape’s arid landscape and makes use of honest, robust materials for a low-maintenance building.

Complementing the brickwork, detailed laser-cut metal screens form facades, parapets and canopies. Lisa Younger of Activate Architects designed the artwork cut into the screens, and Reon van der Wiel, also of Activate, was the project lead. The veranda is screened from direct sunlight by a dynamic wind-driven louvre, designed by Colin Savage and Heather Dodd of Savage + Dodd Architects. It is composed of moveable mesh with a series of repeating patterns cut out of the square plates that offer continually changing dappled light as the sun moves across the courtyard. When the wind picks up, the screen ripples, creating a dynamic facade element.

3. South African Embassy, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa is the seat of the African Union. The design of the embassy, by MMA Architects, is a confluence of ancient Ethiopian civilisation and South African culture, creating an opportunity to celebrate the potential of cultural heritage as a generator of economic development and to develop a unique blend of African-inspired design. Situated on the corner of a busy street, the complex is focused inwards, with an internal atrium and courtyards. The building wears a “silver veil” for privacy and to shield it from the intense sun. The stainless steel mesh with pop riveted depictions of Khoisan rock art was developed in collaboration with South African award-winning artist Usha Seejarim. It is an attempt to quite literally layer the heritage of South Africa’s Khoisan art and the Ethiopian silversmith tradition of intricate crosses.

4. Westbury Clinic, Johannesburg

Image credit: Michael Schmucker.

Image credit: Michael Schmucker.

Architect Nadia Tromp designed this primary health-care facility for the City of Johannesburg Health Department to serve the 550 000 residents of Westbury. It consists of a 2 000 m2  covered floor area, 18 consulting rooms and an internal waiting room. In response to the limitations of the land, the clinic occupies the smallest possible area and opens up to outdoor areas, which serve as external waiting rooms. A courtyard with trees, a roof light that provides natural suction, and high-level openings in the facade ensure natural cross-ventilation, which helps to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. The clinic was the 2017 winner of the World Architecture Festival’s Completed Buildings Award in the health category.