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Corobrik's Firelight Satin Unites Old and New at Umhlanga College

Umhlanga College a state-of-the-art learning facility - is a perfect example of a blend of old and new and testament to the fact that Corobrik products are timeless.

The school, opened its doors in 2003, started out as an initiative of Durban Girls' College with a view to providing a primary school facility for future pupils. However, as the school began to flourish, parents from the surrounding suburbs asked that further facilities be added to accommodate older children, extending learners stay at the school. It became an independent college.

Set on what was formerly Burnside Estate on the Umhlanga Ridge; the School's grounds are nestled amongst magnificent indigenous trees and surrounded by sugar cane.

Architect Trish Emmett from Emmett Emmett Architects, who has been associated with the college since the outset, says that the existing building on the property was the cane cutters single quarters. Transforming this historic building into a modern learning facility has been an exciting challenge.

The original face brick building with its distinctive brick columns set the tone and the original old dining hall with its wrap around verandas was linked with new buildings that perfectly complemented them.

The brickwork was dictated by builders of old and the modern-day architect's job was to select a product that matched as closely as possible. Corobrik's Firelight Satin was the perfect choice together with Corobrik's Imperial non face bricks which formed the basis for the contrasting plastered sections of the buildings.

Corobrik's director of sales, Allin Dangers, said that Firelight Satin had both practical and aesthetic qualities that make it a good match. Durable face bricks possess a high degree of size, shape uniformity and the rich terracotta colour of the chosen face bricks have worked well with the earth tones and natural surrounds. It is a feature of clay brick that harmonises with all environments, fauna and flora and in this instance has taken the historic building's ambience forward into the present day built environment in a seamless way.

From the outset, says Emmett, sustainable building methods and design were priorities, again making environmentally friendly clay brick a natural fit. Throughout, she says, there has been a master plan for building which centred on the use of clay brick.

Once the main block which includes the senior primary section of the school was completed in 2007, Umhlanga College embarked on the construction of a bespoke multi-purpose hall. The design spec indicated that it had to blend with the existing buildings and also meld with distinctive features such as the open-air amphitheatre and a 6m wide paved street on to which the media and audio visual centre, science laboratory, cutting edge IT centre, design and technology centre and music, art and drama rooms open out.

The iconic hall that looks back towards the amphitheatre and out over the school sports fields. It includes a substantial stage, a sprung floor, practice rooms for music and ballet and highly sophisticated acoustics which have resulted in the incorporation of distinctive fins into the design.

Brooks says that they are very proud of the new hall. When it comes to both this and the rest of the school, he points out that, apart from obvious practical characteristics such as being functional and hard wearing, face brick is aesthetically pleasing, forming the basis for the more rustic design of the school and lending interesting texture whilst also complementing the contemporary and clean lines.

He says this feel, as well as the overall design ethos, will be replicated and even expanded as the high school takes shape. Construction of the second phase of the high school is expected to begin in 2015 with the completed facility expected to be fully functional by 2017 when the current learners reach matric.

The current high school comprises five classrooms as well as an art room, media centre and the first phase administration block. When completed, says Emmett, Umhlanga College will boast 38 classrooms and specialty rooms, further administration facilities, a sick bay and a lecture theatre.

The front facade of Umhlanga College in Durban. The school has been built from Corobrik's Firelight Satin giving a rich red colour which matches the original face brick building which was on the site. Firelight Satin was selected as it matched closely with the original buildings that were incorporated into the school when first constructed.

A side elevation of Umhlanga College's hall showing diagonal fin walls that have been built at an angle to shade the hall from sun, increase ventilation and offer highly sophisticated acoustics in the hall.