Architect’s Motivation
Situated in the rolling foothills of the Drakensberg Mountains, along the banks of the Ash River, the Stortemelk Hydroelectric Plant attempts to celebrate the importance the plant holds in producing clean, responsible electricity in South Africa.

Comprised of a number of building skins, the design approach intended to create different experiences of the plant from the exterior, & from within the interior. Clad in Corten Steel & Polycarbonate sheeting, the architecture is intended to be of its landscape, while still allowing for good light quality to penetrate into the plant interior. Articulating the façade with slotted window openings allowed for the perception that the electrical production of the plant is spilling out into the surrounding environment, creating a beacon in the landscape.

On approach to the site, the Corten Sheeting reaches up into the skyline, announcing the building & adjacent river from a distance. The lightness of the steel construction is then contrasted by the far more stereotomic design of the rest of the plant, which protrudes from the river bank as a plinth.

The challenge in the project was to create spaces for production, with minimal human interaction. Working hand-in-hand with an exceptional client made the realization of this celebration of production possible, creating architecture with respect for the responsible electrical generation the client creates.

Client motivation:
Our company carries a certain ethos that is core to every enterprise we undertake, namely the responsible production of energy in a South African context.

Our brief for the Ash River site was to create a housing for a hydro-electric plant that blended seamlessly with the surrounding landscape while also celebrating the responsible production of electricity. Many of our hydroelectric sites have been in operation for decades, which therefore require an approach that does not become a burden on the landscape or surrounding community.

The response to this brief from the architect achieved every aspect that we required, succeeding in both blending into the landscape, while also celebrating the plant’s functions. Beyond this, the design managed to create a spectacular light quality in the work areas of the plant through the use of polycarbonate sheeting.

The plant stands as the perfect mediation between the production of electricity from the river, & a well-considered addition to the Golden Gate landscape. In its entirety we believe this piece of production architecture fits wholly within our ethos of responsible creation, standing as a testament to what can be achieved without negatively affecting our unique countryside.

Profiles used 406 x 140 x 46mm galvanized steel I-Beams & Columns, IPE-AA 120 galvanized, IPE 200
Type of cladding 3mm Corten sheet panels & polycarbonate sheeting

Project Team

Project Team Role Company
Nominator earthworld architects & interiors
Client/ Developer REH Group
Architect earthworld architects & interiors
Structural Engineer Aurecon
Main Contractor Eigenbau
Photographer, Photo competition CHARLES CORBETT PHOTOGRAPHY
Photographer, Other submitted images earthworld architects & interiors