Published: 07 September 2015

The Watershed

Concrete, Steel, Structural Awards

Tom Linder, from LH Consulting Engineers, has been a structural engineer since 1997, working for four years in London and then in Cape Town. Here he discusses his work on “The Watershed” project, which is entered in the “Small Practices” category – celebrating the work of smaller engineering firms.
‘The Watershed’ is a redeveloped shed situated along the pedestrian route from the Victoria Wharf Mall to the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Prior to the redevelopment, part of this historic warehouse was occupied by a craft market, with the remainder having long been vacant and in poor condition. It consisted of a double-bay structural steel shed which straddled the zone between a working dry-dock and the heavily trafficked Dock Road, leaving an awkward and narrow route for pedestrians along the busy road.

The Watershed project was born out of an urban strategy to improve and upgrade the pedestrian experience, whilst also seeking to provide a so-called Innovation Hub and exhibition space. As with all structures in Cape Town which have historical significance, it was important to renew and re-use the existing building instead of demolishing it. The building already had foundations, columns and a roof that were in good condition and there was sufficient load capacity to support the additional floor structure, so the re-use of the existing building also made sense from an economical point of view.

The structure is unconventional and provides an inspirational setting for further creativity and an inviting space for tourists and the public in general. The versatility of the existing steelwork structure was taken advantage of, and the detail-intensive use of timber, reinforced concrete and structural steel all provide a good showcase for structural engineering. The project involved creativity not only from the architect, but also from the client, quantity surveyor, builder and structural engineer.

The Watershed opened to the public towards the end of 2014 and has already become a hive of activity, providing a variety of spaces and opportunities. I’m really proud to see the Watershed shortlisted alongside such wonderful projects from around the world.

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