By  Candace Sofianos King

An elegant architectural touch to education at Cheré Botha School. SA Roofing embarks on a visual exploration of the award winning Cheré Botha School, a laudable educational facility of architectural excellence.

Commissioned by the provincial government of the Western Cape, Cheré Botha School in Bellville assists children who are intellectually challenged, particularly with Down’s syndrome or autism. The school is divided into six sections featuring an administration building, four classroom blocks for learners, as well as one classroom block featuring an assembly hall, kitchen and workshops.

With the roof design having started in July 2015, several meetings took place between all parties throughout the process in order for the team to come up with a design that would work structurally and ensure the final result reflects what the architect and client wanted and was within budget, highlights Vincent den Ouden of Elegant Roofing.

A super form

A unique building design element is the use of exposed timber roof trusses which add richness to the overall aesthetic appeal of the structure and allows for plenty of room for natural light to enter the building. According to Wolff Architects director Heinrich Wolff, each of the classroom blocks was designed around a shared space which is expressed through a timber A-frame, which the architectural firm conceptualised as the ‘super-form’.

Says Wolff, “The A-frame super-form is identical for every age group, but the ground surface is occupied and programmed differently depending on its situation. These roofed outdoor spaces form as a series of social spaces at a scale between the classroom and the school as a whole. It allows learners to play and learn outside even in adverse weather conditions. It was very exciting to see those first timber A-frame trusses being lifted into place. And within days, the anticipated high volumes were formed over the classroom social spaces.”

Challenges and triumphs

The construction was not without its obstacles, notes Wolff, adding that each challenge was undertaken with great care, enthusiasm and skill. “Once all the detail, designs and procurement logistics had been concluded, the construction phase on site was started, which had its own challenges,” notes Den Ouden.

One of the greatest challenges was the spacing of the A-frame trusses at 2 600mm centres and the walkway beams having a cantilever of 3 000mm. “Armed with detailed engineering, coupled with special bracket designs with fixings to the built structure, we were able to overcome this. Through engagement with the laminated beam manufacturer OT Joiners we were able to get specific sized and graded laminated beams for this custom project,” highlights Den Ouden.

He continues, “Working with timber has its challenges when the product must be of a furniture grade finish. During the construction phase, special precaution was taken to prevent any damage to the large heavy laminated beams. Cranes were used to hoist and place the trusses into position on ready casted plinths – with each truss spanning 9m and with a height of more than 9m.”

A cherished achievement

“In the end the project was successfully completed, and the finished result is one we at Elegant Roofing are proud of. We look forward to working with more timber projects of this kind,” says Den Ouden.

Wolff adds, “The finished project is pleasing, and the end user is very happy to be the inhabitants of this building. It was expressed on many occasions that their special needs have been adhered to in the design and construction process. We at Wolff are very happy that we have contributed positively to the day-to-day teaching [and learning] lives of all.”


Images by Elegant Roofing