Urban sophistication

The Square Boutique Hotel & Spa is a new facility located in the heart of Umhlanga within a vibrant, active mix of retail and commercial properties. The property primarily targets business and corporate clients; however the hotel is also designed to cater for families, and local and international leisure travellers

Located in the heart of the newly developed La Lucia Ridge commercial district in the northern suburbs of Durban, The Square is a landmark previously well known for its medical facilities. “The building and site was acquired by our client in 2007 who capitalised on the unique town planning criteria of the site to revitalise the existing building and develop the only hotel within the commercial precinct,” notes Rajesh Mahadeo from the architectural firm, Axis Mason.

Mahadeo recently joined the Axis Mason Durban office after a 5-year period working for EPA Architects. As an Associate, he was responsible for a string of large scale projects along the coastline of Natal and Umhlanga New Town Centre, covering a wide range of commercial, residential and mixed use developments. Axis Mason is a leading design practice with a current staff of 40 located in offices in London, St Helier (Jersey) and Durban (South Africa), together with an associate office in Glasgow. They have extensive experience of a wide variety of projects, ranging from large scale mixed-use, residential and commercial office developments to individual residences.

Designed with synergy, functionality and elegance with natural cool colours, creating the perfect atmosphere for relaxation, this retro hotel offers the ultimate in a safe, pleasant, and exciting development node where people live, work and holiday in a contemporary urban setting on a subtropical coastline with year-round summer and incomparable lifestyle. The architectural language of this sophisticated hotel is one of simplicity and minimalism. It has crisp and elegant features expressed on the eastern and western facades which creates its prominence within the urban fabric. The use of low maintenance, high quality materials underline its function as a leading 4-star establishment in Durban. The hotel was officially opened in April 2010 and is currently being managed by the Three Cities Hotel Group.

Located 15 minutes from Durban central and 10 minutes from the new King Shaka airport, and a stone’s throw away from Gateway Theatre of Shopping, Umhlanga and La Lucia office parks, the hotel boasts fully equipped conference facilities and an in-house restaurant, the all-day dining Cosmopolitan Square Restaurant, which serves light, healthy, organic meals, and is open for breakfasts, mid-morning light snacks, lunches and early dinners. The restaurant’s wall is equipped with LED lights that change colour to suit the atmosphere required by the guests, ensuring a trendy, cosmopolitan feel is always the highlight of the experience.

The hotel uses natural cool colours to create an atmosphere which induces relaxation with 43 superior and seven deluxe rooms equipped with extra length king size beds, air-conditioning, satellite TV, telephone, internet and email, mini bar and room safes. The facilities on the third floor of the hotel (which are also available to the public) include a spa, saunas, a gym, pool and pool bar, all with a180 degree view to the Indian Ocean. The Square Boutique Hotel and Spa is modern with functionality and elegance yet is set close to a natural environment of reclaimed wetlands where thousands of indigenous trees and shrubs are home to birds and animals.

The design process
“From the outset, we employ a collaborative approach to project working and have considerable experience of ‘design partnering’ with many of the UK’s leading consultants and design professionals,” says Mahadeo. This process allows the team to assimilate and apply the knowledge and skills gained through collaborative working on all projects to address the specifics of local context and identity and to ensure a solution appropriate to place
“Designing and planning the hotel in a fully functional office park presented a number of challenges to the professional team,” explains Mahadeo. Fixed site constraints and logistical challenges played a great part in the design process, such as accessibility, cost effective, function and operation. The construction zone was also confined to an area between the existing office buildings as the site was originally a parking area.

The building is built on a plinth which acts as the basement and facilitates the double basement parking, explains Mahadeo, while, “The rest of the building overhangs this plinth which provides the illusion that the building is floating above the ground.” The building uses a few elements on the exterior as features – plaster and white paint, raw concrete, dark grey aluminium windows and doors, white aluminium sunscreens and cladding and timber. “Timber is used on the open decks and white stone chip, Marmoran finish is used as both focal areas on east and west elevation,” he says.

Mahadeo describes the style of architecture as contemporary, simple and minimalist and crisp, yet with a single splash of colour. Internally, he says that the rooms were designed to be stylish and sophisticated. “The rooms include the first IPTV, internet and data system to be installed in the province,” he says, adding that “The hotel is equipped with the latest internet and data facilities, integrated TV systems and security and access control.” Clifton Smithers of Union 3, a design solution company focusing on interior design, architecture and turn key projects within the residential, commercial and retail sectors of the property industry, was responsible for the interior design.

According to Mahadeo, the hotel creates a synergy and an energy within the business park. “My signature style is to use pure form and framing a building to create focus in every direction. In terms of this project, the use of steel, glass and timber helps to express the crisp architectural language.” The east and west facades of the hotel are striking, as is the four storey off shutter entrance and the timber louvers.

The brief was to design an upmarket 50 bedroom boutique hotel and spa, and Axis Mason have accomplished this with contemporary elegance The process, which started in February 2008 and came to completion in April 2010 was handled by Axis Mason from design concept to completion. “Design parameters such as sun control, views, access, textures and colours were of great importance, and we he have, along with the electrical and mechanical engineers, achieved a building which is notable for a low power consumption.

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