Electric City is the proposed redevelopment of the Aberdare Factory complex into a mixed-use development, which will consist of factories, housing, an art gallery, a school and a rooftop park. The challenge in the project lay in the fact that the large factory spaces needed to remain functional as such, while the site needed accommodate a host of new residential and cultural functions. The complex is significant in that it takes up almost four city blocks in Jeppestown and consists of over 20 industrial buildings gradually built over the last 100 years. The complex has an extraordinary sense of place due largely to the sheer number of mature trees that line internal roads, as well as the human-scaled mostly modernist factory buildings.
The commission came about through an invited competition. From the outset, Local Studio were inspired by Bjarke Ingels’ concept of hedonistic sustainability which juxtaposes spaces of play with spaces of production. The concept kept the integrity of all the internal roads at ground level for truck access and created a network of movement and public space on the roofs of the factories. Local Studio’s proposal looked to eliminate private vehical movement within the complex and create a parkade at the entrance which visitors filter vertically through the factory building and access the network of housing and cultural facilities above ground level.
For Local Studio, the biggest compromise of the project is the insulated nature of the complex, which has always been the case, and missed opportunities to connect to one of the most dynamic parts of the city, including the Wolhuter Men’s Hostel.