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Dissertation - International Convention Centre


Original Harbour, PORT ELIZABETH

The Original Harbour. Historically the city and the harbour had an accented spatial connection, but over time grew disjointed due to development of harbour infrastructure. This not only separated public city life from the harbour, but also obstructed a visual link to the seafront, which lead to undesirable spaces.
The strict access due to the large industrial elements, contributed to this problem, giving no human significance to the seafront. Public city life ceased to exist at the edge, which could have been the most active and vibrant part of the city’s spaces.

This dissertation investigates the key components which influence the design of an International Convention Centre (ICC) for Port Elizabeth’s waterfront.

The proposed development of a mixed-use waterfront has risen for the Port Elizabeth harbour that combines commercial and domestic land uses. This development resulted from the construction of a deep water port at Coega (±46km North of Port Elizabeth), with the relocation of the Manganese Ore Terminal and Tank Farm in the Port Elizabeth harbour.
With these changes undesirable circumstances of disjointedness, poor visual links, restricted access and safety risks could be overcome.

Through these opportunities, by creating an ICC in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro (which also includes the towns of Uitenhage and Despatch (approximately 1.5 million people); the city could become a global destination like Cape Town and Durban. This could also greatly benefit Eastern Cape tourism since Port Elizabeth is a point of connection on the Garden Route.

A waterfront development would lead to a stronger connection between the city and the harbour, giving access and connection to all.
By introducing a global portal for international and local users, new urban qualities can be presented and integrated as part of the identity of the city. This portal could be symbolic of the celebration of human life on the water’s edge.

Proposal of an Urban Waterfront

Development Plan (Hattingh et al., 2008:41)

Urban Design - Proposal Urban Waterfront Port Elizabeth

The Inverted Shed and the Inverted Duck

Venturi et al. expose the changing tentative nature of the consumer object, as it applies to the building industry: projected desire (embedded in the sign) which transforms the box into a unique piece of architecture versus the economic reality of the ordinary, stripped of illusion (inherent in the shed). With the relation between the sign and the shed, Venturi et al. verify that the two will not be able to be consolidated. They write that “the purest decorated shed would be some form conventional systems building shelter that corresponds closely to the space, structure and program requirements of the architecture, and upon which is laid a contrasting decoration. (Venturi et al., 1972:100)
The inverted shed and the inverted duck have become apparent in the second millennium. They can be seen as interpretations of their forerunners for present-day architecture.

“The inverted shed can be interpreted as a radicalized version of the decorated shed. The inverted shed becomes a three-dimensional carrier of information catering simultaneously to people in cars, pedestrians out strolling, and people inside the building” (Klingman: 2007:194) This implies a threedimensional event space of visual signifiers that articulating the inside and outside and the public and private, creating a continuous space that is no longer definitive. Venturi et al. 1972:9) stated the predominance of image over space. In present-day architecture it could be debated that the image has in reality become the

Inverted Shed Inverted Duck

The inverted shed does not pose a contradictory relation to perception but rather forms an interactive environment that is expressed on different levels when experiencing spaces.
The inverted duck on the other hand, no longer applies a condition to the exterior of a generic box where it previously was a sculptural figure. The inverted duck creates a fluid sequence of interrelated event spaces from exterior to interior by means of several parallel layers, conceiving space as having depth. The inverted duck and inverted shed merges into one another, integrating the different types, altering two dimensional images into three dimensional scenes.
With these different contemporary types “an architecture of spectacle has risen in which the shift away from the consumption of goods towards the consumption of experiences and entertainment becomes manifest in the urban landscape.” (Harvey, 1990:285)
Klingman (2007:194) observes that these conditions lead to it that desire has conquered reality, that the image has undermined the box and that the imagination unrestricted by reality has acquired credibility within the built environment. Contemporary architecture acts as a continuous three-dimensional symbol of a visual consumerist experience.

Design Resolution

With regard to the ICC, an architecture of spectacle has risen in which the shift away from the consumption of goods towards the consumption of experiences and entertainment becomes manifested in the urban landscape. The design’s spaces and experience become the product of consumption.

The Convention Centre’s main functions are linked by a foyer that acts as a spine bringing all activities together over different thresholds. The public promenade steps up to the entrance with a triple volume atrium, through the foyer, to the different functional spaces. The services and administration are located on the eastern side that forms the main service area of the building, with the exception of the different service core shafts that serves the meeting rooms, banquet hall and event spaces.

The auditorium is located off the promenade for easy access for public functions and can act separately from the other building functions. The auditorium skin changed from a perforated steel mesh to a more permeable corten steel-like strip signifying transparency and a visual connection between inside and outside, public and private, but rooted into its surroundings. The transparent facade portrays the idea of openness with the intent of blurring the boundary between inside and outside, removing the any obstacle, leaving only the possibility of interaction and visual connectivity between the spaces. The transparent facade acts as a way of visual consuming of activity on the inside and outside with the circular ramp spiraling around the auditorium.
The idea of the ramp dissappearing around the auditorium creates a feeling of suspense and curiousity to where the ramp leads to and what is going to be experienced.

With the auditorium being a spectacle it is not the intent to create an iconic building for Port Elizabeth, but to create an authenctic local city environment. Here the symbol shouldn’t necessarily be the building itself but rather the experience as explained in the theory of the inverted duck and inverted shed.
The public should be the consumers of the public space in and around the Convention Centre. The auditorium and its lobby space opens up onto the sea, hence public point towards the sea and viewpoint of the promenade.


The auditium consists of a curtain wall glass box and roof that creates an experience unique to the specific design, not only creating an experience of a facade from the exterior but also for the user on the inside the building. Giving a poriferous, transparent facade and roof. Not only does the audtorium create an unique experience through the day but also acts as a lightbox and beacon at night within the harbour.

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