Velocity Films


Name Velocity Films
Client Barry Munchick
Location Rivonia, Johannesburg
Status Built, 1994

The building houses a film production company and accommodates both the administrative and production functions of the company. The building has been designed as a work-in-progress, which both represents the framework within which all film production companies operate and allows the company the kind of flexibility that it needs to be able to reinvent itself both spatially and culturally over time. This aspect was of particular importance since the client was represented by an American who had worked in the Chiat Day building in Santa Monica, Los Angeles prior to coming to South Africa – the experience of working in a Frank Gehry building had an impact on the client.

The building was designed at a time of transition in the country and was influenced by the theoretical publications of both Alexander Tzonis and critical regionalism and Kenneth Frampton and tectonic culture.

The building is organised along a double-volume street, which is designed as a social space where spontaneous encounters can occur. The ground plane is continuous throughout the building and is given over to production programmes. The first floor is given over to administrative and financial purposes.

The material and structural systems are ubiquitous to the region and the structural frame is revealed in line with much similar work done by the practice at that time. Rather than being clad, the frame is revealed and the cladding materials are inserted within the frame rather than placed external to it.

All detailing is conventional and all building components are standard components which can be purchased off the shelf in most building supply stores in the region. A carefully considered response to climate has been adopted – however this approach was generated by a search for appropriate form rather than as a response to the energy crisis that we face today.

The roof form and the placement of the building bulk was primarily shaped by the path of the sun and the desire to maximize passive solar gains. The structural frame was designed in such a way as to allow infill panels to complete the external skin – this had the advantage of both allowing the structural system to be literally transparent but more importantly allowed the possibility for the building to be changed over time. This follows closely with the architects interest in the Smithsons – notion of the building as a scaffolding or framework for inhabitation.

We are pleased that the building has matured over time and has been considerably adjusted by the occupants – these marks of change have added to the architecture. Similarly the decision to place the building at the southern edge of the site for solar gain has been proved successful. The building is virtually invisible during the hot summer months and is only revealed during the winter months – this metamorphosis is a source of huge pleasure to both the clients and the architects.