The Nujoma Square is a contemporary mixed-use building situated in an established residential neighbourhood on the fringe of Windhoek Central, in the capital city of Namibia.
Designed by Barnard Mutua Architects, the building is described as “a village”, featuring a series of related buildings organised around a linear courtyard, creating play of solids and voids along a central ‘street’ accessed via a generous public scaled staircase up from the main vehicular street.
The building, which is named after the client, prominent Namibian businessman, Szacky Nujoma, was designed to be the head office of Nam Energy. The development houses three independent office buildings, a bistro, two retail spaces on the lowest level, and eight studio apartments. The buildings and courtyard are enveloped by an expansive lightweight floating steel shade structure hovering over the courtyards. This canopy is both a nod to traditional shade structures and a monument to honour people who have contributed to Mr. Nujoma’s success with their names laser-cut into the steel itself.
The Client requested a contemporary mixed-use building to accommodate his business and as a long term investment. The building was to reflect his progressive innovative approach to business and to reflect the positive progressive mood of the newly independent country. The client wanted to reflect the fact that the growth of his business was due to the support from those who shared his vision and was not a solitary journey.
The site is in established residential neighbourhood on the fringe of the Windhoek CBD. The building is a village. A series of solid and voids are arranged along a street that leads via a generous public scaled staircase up from Luther street. This generous staircase invites people in and ties the building functionally and visually to the neighbourhood, in particular to ‘The Village’, a mixed-use urban precinct which is a short distance away.
Sculpturally the building is composed of a series of solids and voids. At the front, public end of the building the solids are offices on two levels. The internal street leads visitors past the offices deeper into the village to 8 residential units, 4 on the street level and 4 one level up. Staircases off the street lead up to the entrances of the upstairs units, both offices and residential. The staircases animate the spaces and further reinforce the notion of a village street.
The simple grid arrangement gives a strong clue as to how this village could be extended further towards the other flats seen on the hillside at the end of the street. The buildings flanking the internal street read as two stories high. However, the buildings on one side are three stories high when seen from the external street. The sloping site gave the opportunity to have retail units opening onto the lower street level and a parking area on the same level. Articulation of the façade at street level and the use of clip-on cladding serve to conceal the parking so that it is barely noticeable.
A canopy of perforated and cutout out steel panels floats over the building providing shade and a sense of enclosure. Names of people who have supported the client on his journey or who have contributed to the building and words that express the client’s core values have been cutout of the steel panels creating a delightful shadow play on the floor and walls. The forms are abstracted cubes and the detailing is minimal so as to reinforce the clarity of the space and the purity of the forms giving a contemporary and progressive expression to this unique village.
“This reprogramming of an existing suburban plot sensibly densifies the area and maximizes land use. It does so while maintaining an open spatial character and contributing favourably to the urban public realm. The shaded canopy courtyard manages to make a delightful open shelter while mediating the transition to the more private spaces. This mixed us building is an attractive and compelling addition to the architectural language of the city.”
Citation from the Award of Excellence in the 2017 Namibia Institute of Architects Merit Awards