The American International School of Johannesburg is an independent school in South Africa serving students grades Pre K-12. The school’s main campus in Johannesburg is sited on 58-acres of land located on the city’s northern edge. Formerly a horse farm, the school’s original buildings recall their rural roots in their building materials; white brick used to construct existing buildings remember the white brick of the horse stable that once served as the original school building.
In 2011, the school engaged Flansburgh Architects to develop a Campus Master Plan with the purpose of identifying current and future needs to accommodate a growth of approximately 250 students over a five-year period. The Plan was to consider the site, culture, zoning constraints, as well as overall vision of the school, and to propose a phasing strategy to achieve said goals. What resulted was a five-phase plan that included the construction of a performing arts centre, new elementary school, and athletic centre among other facilities.
The second phase of the project, a new 82-foot pool facility, was completed in 2012 along with the adjacent dining commons. The 15,000-s.f. Aquatics Centre features a 6-lane pool with the additional shallow end for teaching, enclosed changing areas, office space, storage space, and mechanical room. The challenge from the onset was to create an economic covering for the state-of-the-art pool as Johannesburg sits on “Highveld” plateau 5,000 feet above sea level making the area prone to frequent lightning strikes. In response, the new building is constructed of custom steel fabrications, corrugated metal, and corrugated acrylic that would actively deter these strikes away from the facility. South African stone, ceramic tile, tensile fabric, and motorized aluminium louvers were also incorporated into the overall design of the Aquatics Centre.
Tubular steel framing systems minimize the depth of steel and incorporate lateral bracing seamlessly into the span and the crisscross structural framework recalls the geometric pattern of native African beadwork and textiles. Louvers modulate daylight and protect the interior from rain; skylight composed of corrugated acrylic are designed at standard panel width making them cost-effective. Fabric panels at each end of the structure modulate air flow preventing a wind tunnel effect. The combination of the fabric panels, the acrylic skylights, and the louvers minimize glare in the pool, creating a gently dappled light. A simple palette of white and light grey with local stone at the entry simulates an outdoor environment.