Gold Coast Estate Sibaya Sports Facility

Gold Coast Estate, Sibaya Coastal Precinct, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

The new Sports Facility at the Gold Coast Estate in Sibaya Coastal Precinct, designed by Craft of Architecture not only acts as a place-maker at the entrance of the new estate by makes a striking contribution to the climatically responsive regional tradition.

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Leading Architecture & Design, Kinetic Curtain

Gold Coast Estate on the Kwa-Zulu-Natal North Coast is an architecturally modern luxury family estate, which forms part of the 1000ha Sibaya Coastal Precinct.

The broader precinct includes residential, retail, and commercial developments. The estate emphasizes a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle with a focus on family life. A network of running and biking trails and paths winds through the estate and into the precinct.

One of the estate’s early stand-out features is the sports facility at its entrance, nestled into the landscape alongside the gatehouse and partially visible from the passing highway. Given the prominence of its position, the sports centre has at once to function as a recognizable and welcoming landmark, setting the tone for the aesthetics and identity of the estate, while not upstaging the gatehouse. As such, the architects, Craft of Architecture – who are also responsible for the estate’s aesthetic guidelines – allowed themselves a somewhat individualistic building, encouraging variation within the contemporary architectural framework.

Features of the Gold Coast Estate Facility

The position of the sports centre is also of strategic importance to the urban design of the estate. It is positioned so that it activates an adjacent central park, attracting walkers and bringing life to the communal green space. Limited parking discourages the use of motor vehicles, while promoting walking and cycling in keeping with the active, outdoor lifestyle associated with the estate. It is also placed as a convenient stop when returning to the estate, as well as allowing easy passage out to the rest of the Sibaya Coastal Precinct from the gatehouse.

The sports facility includes a 500m2 gym, a flexible recreational studio space for dance or yoga, a high-altitude training room, and a squash court. Outside, a 25-metre lap pool is positioned along the northern edge of the building, “hunkered” into the landscape where it is protected from the highway, as well as a tennis court to the south. 

In contrast to typically enclosed or artificially lit and mechanically ventilated ‘basement’ gyms, the sports centre offers views, air, and natural light – the workout area even spills out into a covered outdoor area. A two-storey modernist-inspired ‘glass box’ thus forms the basis of the design, providing a simple and efficient ‘skeleton’, while a protective aluminum mesh brise-soleil wraps around the building on its upper level, resolving both challenges in terms of heat gain and shelter from the sun, as well as concern for privacy. (Perforated and laser-cut screens were also used on the gatehouse, providing a degree of continuity between the adjacent buildings.)

Inside the Gold Coast Sports Facility

Inside, the use of space has been maximized – the plinth of the stairs includes storage, and also functions as seating for spectators watching matches in the central squash court.

The screen itself gives the facility its primary identity and aesthetic impact, COA devised the brise-soleil as a kinetic screen, made from 14 000 perforated aluminum tiles individually mounted on pins, allowing them to ripple and shimmer when activated by the wind.

Although the essential mechanism is simple, challenges in terms of acoustics (rattling) and wear and tear had to be resolved with the use of a gasket or plastic sleeve that not only prevents noise, but is robust enough to withstand constant movement without corrosion or degradation. 


Although the design team explored several design iterations with varying degrees of complexity, size, pattern and colour, they found that a uniform skin and small tiles best expressed the effect of the wind and provided the desired rippling effect. The rounded corners of the screen allow a sense of uninterrupted movement to flow around the perimeter of the building, which would not have been possible with corners. 

The aluminum tiles have a milled or matte finish to prevent harsh reflections of sunlight from the outside. They are perforated to allow views from the inside, as if through a shifting curtain. The screen’s nature as a ‘second skin’ is further articulated by the use of a black brick façade on the southern end of the building. The brick surface seems to slip behind the screen, heightening the multi-layered effect while amply demonstrating that the design responds to the site and conditions inside and outside the building, not simply applying a preconceived idea.

The kinetic skin not only joins and advances the regional tradition of responsive design associated with Durban’s subtropical climate, but it also, in animating the movement of the wind, becomes part of an ongoing local community conversation, responding to and articulating environmental and climatic changes. In this coastal setting, changes in weather and wind conditions play an important part in the everyday life of the community and are a central topic of conversation among groups ranging from surfers to fisherman.

The brise-soleil in tropical modernist architecture in hot climates is a tried-and-tested shading device and an effective way to catch natural cooling breezes. Its expressive, communicative character also links it to other innovative contemporary precedents such as the Millennium Tower on the Bluff designed by Don Albert & Partners, which, through its movement, coveys information about the tide and wind direction.

As such, the sports facility at Gold Coast Estate Sibaya makes a striking and creative contribution not just to the precinct, but to the local architectural tradition, while both encouraging and expressing the active, outdoorsy character of the local lifestyle.