The San Sereno Senior Living estate was a refurbishment project that was undertaken by Kunz Raubenheimer Architects for Auria Senior Living. The brief was to upgrade the existing communal facility by altering the layout and adding a new extension to the communal facility of this retirement estate located in Bryanston. The existing communal facility was built in 1992 and was in dire need of an upgrade. The aged building had to be transformed into a world-class contemporary facility which would provide a comfortable living environment to residents, accommodate impaired movement and mobility, ensure that all areas are compliant to the elderly act and provide all the necessary amenities within the rapidly changing senior living environment.


The Architectural brief

The brief that Kunz Raubenheimer received from the client was to alter the existing communal facility on a functional and operational level, while at the same time improving the quality of living of the residents through the architecture. The existing layout lacked a sense of hierarchy of space, due to the confusing location of front and back of house functions. The staff/administrative component had a prime view and was the focus of the existing building, thus only benefiting the staff rather than the residents. The building was hermetic and completely closed off towards the incredible view over the bowling green. The focus had to be shifted from the staff to the residents as the communal spaces should become an extension of their living rooms. The existing layout was not conducive to creating a comfortable environment where residents could meet and interact. Wayfinding was non-existent and the spaces were not organized in a logical/practical manner. Physically impaired residents struggled to access the different spaces, due to the absence of inclusive design principles. There was a significant shortage of natural light and ventilation within all the spaces and the spatial experience was morbid with an institutional character which discouraged most residents from utilizing the existing facilities.

Due to the fact that the project was a live site, the conceptual approach to the construction methodology employed by Kunz Raubenheimer Architects was to design steel building components that could be manufactured off-site and assembled on-site like a “Mechano” set. This ensured that construction noise was reduced on-site and that the construction program could be accelerated. The residents appreciated this architectural approach, as it made the construction process more bearable for them and it was due to this unique approach that they gave their full support and approval for the upgrades. The existing architecture’s massing and roof design was very heavy and looked institutional due to it being red concrete roofing tiles. In response to this Kunz Raubenheimer architects designed a series of lightweight steel screens and pergolas that could be fixed to the existing facades to hide these roofs. New steel and timber pergolas were also designed within the courtyards to create shaded spaces for residents to relax. The new Exercise room and Gym were designed with a unique slanting roof structure that functioned as a solar scoop to draw in filtered sunlight and a steel and timber solar screen for solar control. The different communal areas were connected via a series of means of steel and timber pergolas that created pleasant outdoor spaces and formed the golden thread that tied the different areas together as a whole.

The structural framing

120 x 60 x 3,5 mm M/S Rectangular hollow sections were used for the beams of all the pergolas, this profile was the optimal size and depth to achieve the desired spans. A set of four, 70 x 70 x 6mm |M/S Equal leg angle irons, in a crucifix layout, were used for the construction of each pergola column as well as the columns for the solar screen of the new Exercise room and Gym. These columns allowed beams to be slotted in and bolted to the columns from four different directions for the structure of the pergolas. An IPE 200 section, that was cut to profile, was used for the structural support of the benches that was cladded with thermally treated timber and cantilevered out from the columns. This lightweight, cost-effective profile was perfect to realize the design of the cantilevered benches. 60 x 60 x 6mm M/S Equal leg angle Irons were used for the steel louvres that was constructed to screen off the existing roofs. 60 x 60 x 5mm M/S Back to back angle irons were used for the balustrade stanchions, which allowed for a combination of glass infill and thermal treated timber slats at the Coffee shop deck balustrade. Back-to-back angle irons were also used for the construction of a lightweight M/S Girder truss, which gave the ceiling its distinctive form to open-up towards to North and brings in natural light. The mainframe or superstructure of the pergolas was done in steel which was cladded with thermally treated timber louvres to combine a material with a warmer finish/appearance with the steelwork.

Impressive technical aspects

What made this project most impressive from a technical perspective is that most of the built areas consisted of a kit of parts, that was pre-manufactured off-site and then assembled on-site to latch on to the existing structure. In order to minimize noise and disruption on-site during construction, all the different steel components were designed to be pre-manufactured in a factory, which would allow for a high degree of accuracy. These building components, consisting of columns, beams and louvres that were then brought to the site to be bolted together and assembled on-site like a “Mechano” set. All the pergolas and solar screens thus utilized a bolted assembly which saved a lot of time during construction and ensured a high degree of accuracy. This construction method however required Kunz Raubenheimer architects to work very closely with the Main contractor and all the different sub-contractors to ensure seamless coordination and assembly on site. The architects and engineers also worked together to design the most slender and cost-effective components from various different steel sections.

Benefits of using steel

By using various steel sections for the superstructure of the pergolas and timber solar screens, a high degree of accuracy was achieved which could then be cladded with Rhinowood, that was a natural material with higher deflection. Due to the high accuracy and low deflection of steel as well and it’s tensile strength which allows it to span great distances, it was the perfect material to use for the manufacturing of the building components. Holes were pre-drilled during manufacturing off-site and all the various components were bolted together which would not be possible with other materials that have a greater deflection.

The steelwork combined with Rhinowood and glass gave the dated existing building a much more contemporary appearance. The columns were also designed to consist of smaller steel components that were bolted together to give them a sense of lightness and to break up the large solar screens into smaller more aesthetically pleasing proportions.

Through careful co-ordination and teamwork, this complex refurbishment project was realized on a live site, in order to transform the existing building into a luxurious, contemporary Senior living communal facility that became the flagship project of the client and establishes a new gold standard for Senior living in South Africa.

Project motivation editorials are provided by the project nominator. If any technical details, company names or product names are incorrect, please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.

Physical address of the project Street Address
30 Fleming Street, Mill Hill, Bryanston,
Google Maps link

Completion date of steelwork April 2019
Completion date of full project June 2019
Tonnage and steel profiles used 24 Ton

Project Team Role



Kunz Raubenheimer Architects

Client/ Developer

Auria Senior Living


Kunz Raubenheimer Architects


Kunz Raubenheimer Architects

Structural Engineer

Struxit Projects



Quantity Surveyor

Matla QS

Project Manager


Main Contractor

Tyris Construction

Steelwork Contractor

Bronkmann Pipe & Steel

Steel Erector

Bronkmann Pipe & Steel

Cladding Manufacturer


Cladding Supplier


Cladding Contractor


Corrosion Protection




Corrosion Protection

Bronkmann Pipe & Steel

Paintwork Contractor

Tyris Construction

Photographer, Photo competition


Photographer, Other submitted images


If you were a part of this project, and your company details are incorrect or missing – please notify the SAISC so that the error can be corrected.