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Greyville Village, Durban, South Africa

Concierge Boutique Hotel & Freedom Cafe

Carefully inserted into heritage fabric within one of Durban’s inner city locales, this national conservation award-winning boutique hotel and café surprises with panache. 


The development is both elegant and fun – from its preservation of its external historic character to its hospitality program, eclectic materiality, use of colour, and its embrace of a life lived both indoors and outdoors. 


Far from overtly referencing contextual African culture and forms, the architectural energy nevertheless imbues the project with an historical graciousness counterpointing a contemporary vitality and subtle cheek that is uplifting, and that is truly in keeping with South Africa’s most African of cities.


Proximate are the city’s Botanic Gardens, dining and boutique streets and a residential community undergoing transformation.  Correspondingly, the sensitivity of this development to place, history, neighbourhood and community, and its upliftment potential smoothed the way with the suburb’s residents and the local authority, enabling the entire project to be completed within a remarkably short lead up to the 2010 World Cup.

This deadline was fundamental to the design, with no time for over-complicated architectural details or supply chain issues, hence the shipping container solution.

The courtyard is given a boost by the neighbouring park, and provides green respite and social focus for both hotel & cafe guests 


The Freedom Café is a dramatic beacon, challenging the site’s linearity and establishing a generosity of spirit and activation of the space

The hotel occupies the eight 1920’s heritage listed buildings, aligned in 2 parallel rows with a rectangular open space in between. Behind the retained historic facades, the new architecture accommodates all the requirements and program of a boutique hotel with treatments that are crisp, fresh and light. Rather than slavishly maintaining the colonial status quo, the materiality plays the old against the new, contrasting and inter-sleeving the textures of painted white masonry and sandblasted original brickwork against  steel, timber, plush fabrics and vegetation.

Outside, the bright red steel and glass shipping container has landed on a raised podium and accommodates the Freedom Café, juxtaposing the external geniality and formal order. Together with the large existing trees and new landscape, it provides a visual and community focus atop what has become a beautiful destination courtyard space and hotel pedestrian forecourt. This is a place where people meet, things happen and the outdoors is enjoyed, enhanced by the borrowed landscape and renewed visibility of an adjoining park.


By placing the containers lightly on a raised platform, the café is afforded a simultaneous lightness and elevation: it is both of and distinct from its Victorian setting and the flanking hotel suites

Winner of a South African Institute of Architects Conservation Award, the project also highlights the development potential offered by sites typically overlooked and therefore undervalued.  


Beautiful and light-hearted on the one hand, and seriously grounded on the other, the project exemplifies function supporting the idea of heritage and conservation, and rejuvenation of a city via small considered moves and sympathetic new uses.

Concept Architect - soundspacedesign T/A Don Albert & Partners

Architects of Record - architecturefabrik

Interiors - Egg Designs

Words - Robyn Harding

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