Student YMCA Campus

University of Cape Town

Learning often takes place outside the classroom and well-designed campus environments are key to the success of academic institutions. Square One have been appointed to plan a vibrant mixed use campus for the YMCA at the University of Cape Town.

While it is often not the case these days, we know that great campus design starts with the planning of open space, followed by circulation and then the placement of buildings. With this in mind we sought to protect and enhance the 2 landscape realms that were evident on the site. A steep and wooded slope and a sunny flat space were not being used optimally. We decided to push the residential buildings and café/ resource centre to the edges of the site to better frame these spaces and to activate the street edges.  Underneath the site, basement parking ensures that cars do not take precedence over valuable public space and the rooftops are activated with gardens for relaxation and the growing of vegetables for the canteen and café.

The plan integrates the existing trees of the woodland area into a lawned amphitheatre for performances and outdoor lectures. The upper space is opened up and transformed into a sunny courtyard framed by the campus buildings – encouraging social interaction. A multi-purpose hall and gallery pavilion provides the connection between the open spaces. A library, gymnasium and rooftop pool are aligned with the YMCA’s principles of promoting healthy bodies, minds and spirits.

The heavily sloped site means that we can use water to integrate the various spaces through the incorporation of channels and ponds. Natural sandstone and fynbos planting are in keeping with the site’s location on the slopes of Table Mountain. The incorporation of concrete and university plaster  speak to the property’s position as a campus within the broader UCT campus.