As the largest pharmaceutical manufacturer in Africa, the upgrading and expansion of the manufacturing facilities of Aspen Pharmacare in Port Elizabeth has been an ongoing and complex process.
Its most recent addition − the new Oral Solid Dosage Unit − was undoubtedly the most challenging due to yard constraints, limited access and the accommodation of an existing reinforced concrete structure. The coordination of the logistics for the complex to remain operational whilst the new addition was under construction, also had to be taken into account.The design brief called for a barrier-free and flexible new manufacturing area, serviced by extensive and complicated reticulation systems.
The architects skilfully erected a steel structure over parts of the existing reinforced concrete structure, with the various production and plant rooms suspended from the new steel framework. Circulation was moved to the front of the site, taking advantage of natural light, as well as of views across North End Lake – considerations not generally associated with facilities of this nature. Prominent cantilevered service components, conspicuously clad in bright blue corrugated sheet metal and hovering above the transparent circulation areas, modulate the street facade and provide an attractive backdrop for panoramic views from the city.
The new addition, accompanied by the sensitive landscaping of an awkward and tricky site, form a well-composed counterpoint to the disparate assembly of buildings, yet without relying on any superfluous design gestures to camouflage a utilitarian facility of immense engineered complexity. The architects are commended for creating a well-considered work of architecture, executed under severe time and economic constraints, and for reaffirming the role of architects as principle agents in a challenging design environment. .