YEAR - Location
Commanding the Bluff and with views over the revitalised Point Development, the Millennium Tower site is ideal in its potential as an urban focus for Durban. Views towards the site from the beachfront, Esplanade, Berea, Bluff and Umhlanga are spectacular and since the tower has little competition in terms of height, it is a natural choice for the location of the city symbol.
Deriving organic inspiration from the land (a budding sugarcane shoot), the sea (shells and fish), and nautical imagery (sails, masts, cranes and funnels) the Transient Monument synthesises the above into a functional, forward-looking architectural expression for the port of Durban. A barometer for the city, it will communicate fluctuations of sun, wind and tide, while symbolising the growth and transformation of the city into the third Millennium.
With little cost, the positive aspects of the site were amplified into a powerful identity for Durban, with the tower itself operating as a functional entity for Africa’s busiest port, as a port control and vessel-tracking facility The tower was conceived as a politically-neutral abstraction of local forms, affected by forces of nature in real-time.
Its communicative functions:
Wind : The steel mesh-clad cowl element acts as a wind vane, and revolves in response to the prevailing wind direction. The wind appears to push on the rudder, swivelling the cowl around its rotating track so that its curved front faces in the direction of the wind. The cowl utilises a mechanical system that interprets the wind direction based on two inputs that are governed and rotates the cowl accordingly in a dampened fashion.
Tide : A yellow collar on the central spire moves up and down as an indication of the changing ocean tide. The variance between high-tide and low is proposed at almost 30 m for the effect to be visible from all around Durban. The tide level is predicted on a downloaded computer algorithm that maps the moon, and is conveyed to the hydraulic system driving the spire.
The spire is striped and the position of the yellow indicates the relative tide level. A series of pulsating strobes indicates whether the tide is incoming or outgoing.
Sun : A computer-driven sunscreen – with horizontal and vertical blinds – tracks the movement of the sun and moves around the operations room, providing screening when and where it is needed. This feature constantly changes the external appearance of the tower throughout the day, and effectively becomes an indication of the time-of-day. The sunscreen is also used as the window cleaning gallery, and is accessible from the operations room.
Night : Lighting colours within the cowl change according to an algorithm driven by the tide, wind-direction and humidity. This luminosity, combined with the red and green signal lights on the tower provides Durban with an ever-changing spectacle.
By combining these animated functions into the pure abstraction of the tower, a transient monumentality, appropriate for Durban’s change and growth into the new millennium, was achieved and the tower became both a beloved place of work and symbol for the port.
We await the National Port Authority’s instruction on how to proceed with the Millennium Tower Refurbishment proposal now tabled.
Architects - soundspacedesign with Alex Pienaar
Project Managers - soundspacedesign
Interiors - soundspacedesign
Photography - Sean Lorens and others