Meet the team behind Durban’s historic hospital revamp

01 November 2017 | Web Article Number: ME20177370

Consulting Engineers & Project Management
Meet the team behind Durban’s historic hospital revamp
The directors of Ruben Reddy Architects, from left, are Rushdy Parker (CT); Yogas Reddy (Gauteng); Ruben Reddy & Gonzalo Prieto (DBN/KZN) Source: Roger Jardine

DURBAN-based Ruben Reddy Architects (RRA) has taken on the challenge of restoring the historic and now derelict old Addington Children’s Hospital to its former glory. 

Having started as a small, ‘one-man’ show run by Ruben Reddy, the practice this year marks 25 years in business.  With a team of 59 people offering a full-range of architectural services and a network of offices in Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Polokwane and Bloemfontein, the firm has been responsible for the design of some important and high-profile projects and buildings in South African and further afield.

Their expertise and reputation extends to sport architecture, healthcare and public sector buildings, as well as to large-scale transportation hubs, spatial planning and urban design. But it’s clear that the hospital restoration project, which comes appropriately on the heels of Heritage Month in October, is special to the team. 

Opened in 1931, it was the first dedicated children's hospital in Africa. Commissioned by the then Durban Mayor, Mary Siedle, who wanted to take a child of colour for medical treatment but could not find a facility to help her, Siedle had it written into the title deeds that the site would be dedicated to the care of children of all races, and for years it provided quality care to children from a wide range of social backgrounds.

Meet the team behind Durban’s historic hospital revamp
Ruben Reddy, founder of Ruben Reddy Architects Source: Roger Jardine

Sadly, the hospital was closed in 1980, after which, the buildings fell into rapid decline, becoming extremely derelict and with many of the historical artifacts lost due to neglect, theft and vandalism.   

Over 20 years later and the site still sat abandoned, with the heritage buildings on the brink of collapse. Numerous committees were set up and individuals engaged, to try and save the buildings and it was during this period that the precinct was brought to the attention of Dr Arthi Ramkissoon, who saw an opportunity to create the site as a dedicated care facility. This precipitated the formation of the KZN Children’s Hospital Trust.    

The KZN Children’s Hospital Trust aims to restore the site to its role as an exemplary children’s hospital, specialising in child and adolescent mental health, physical rehabilitation and associated services. Once fully developed, the KZN Children’s Hospital Precinct will consist of the four heritage buildings, including the original Addington Children’s Hospital, the recently constructed Out-patients Building and the proposed new six-storey Children’s Hospital Building.

To date, the Trust has successfully raised the full funding for the construction of the Out-patient’s building (completed in 2013); the façade restoration of the old Children’s Hospital and Nurse’s Home (completed in 2015); and the new basement parking (completed in 2016).  With a recent surge in donation, the trust now looks to complete the largest phase of the project – the New Hospital Building.

Meet the team behind Durban’s historic hospital revamp
An aerial view of the hospital restoration project Source: Roger Jardine

With its setting on the Durban beachfront and views of the sea and harbour, the KZN Children’s Hospital Precinct is closely embedded in the surrounding natural and urban environment, said says Shaan Steyn, lead architect on the project.

Integrating the historical and contemporary buildings into a cohesive healthcare precinct, the precinct aims to be a beacon for contemporary healthcare in South Africa. The design focuses on providing a fully-fledged, universally accessible facility, with a child-centered approach at its core.

“Reimagining lost historical sites into relevant urban areas within our city is critical to their success. By giving disused buildings new life and relevant meaning in today’s context, we can draw in public interest and debate, as we look to redefine post-apartheid cities into contemporary African cities,” Steyn said. 

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