The making of the Umhlanga Arch

Nov 19, 2020

Umhlanga Arch the-walk-01
Image Courtesy of Craft of Architecture

Plascon Professional is privileged to partner with our valued Preferred Applicators on a number of prestigious building projects. One of the latest such developments is the multi-billion-rand, 45 000m2 Umhlanga Arch. Prominently positioned on the slopes of Umhlanga Ridge in Kwazulu-Natal, it will become instantly recognizable as a future iconic landmark on the Umhlanga skyline thanks to its bold, eponymous glass arch.

The expansive structure contains office space, a 203-room Hilton Hotel, 170 apartments in a 32-storey tower block, upmarket retail stores, and a SMG dealership for BMW SA. With admirable sea views, restaurants and artisanal food in the Legacy Yard food hall as well as a rooftop bar at Back Yard overlooking the Indian Ocean, the Umhlanga Arch will serve as a lifestyle destination in addition to a residential, retail and corporate hub.

The goal is for the project to cater to well-heeled young professionals in the form of a vibrant district with round-the-clock activities. Specifically envisioned as a true mixed-use development (as opposed to the more traditional approach to a residential scheme), business and networking spaces are contained within the iconic glass arch adjacent to the residential tower. Further to this vision, a lively environment with green spaces and a focus on walkability and cycle-friendliness is planned.

The concept entailed creating something human-centric, vibrant and strong in character – a development that lent itself to fostering a sense of community. “This is where businesses and residents will be fully integrated to support each other and exist in a perfect symbiosis,” says architect Byron Tennant of Craft of Architecture.  

The multi-use nature of the project necessitated an agile and flexible approach to material troubleshooting and a sound and highly technical response to the structural and surface needs of the space. Enter Plascon’s suite of products executed by Smith & Winfield.

A Plascon Preferred Applicator founded 134 years ago, Smith & Winfield was bought by Hinton Brown in 1950 (who trained with Plascon in 1950 and remained a loyal Plascon supporter throughout his life) and is now run by his son, Chris Brown. Smith & Winfield continues to use Plascon products extensively.

Work on the Umhlanga Arch is in line with the Plascon Professional 360 Partnership Pledge, whereby Plascon works with only Preferred Applicators to ensure the enhancement and preservation of the property investment. This project was a 360-degree commitment to create a customised specification; offer colour assistance and application assistance; conduct regular site monitoring and provide inspection reports; as well as provide a quality assurance guarantee, which includes any cost of labour in the event of a product failure. Smith & Winfield is about to complete its role in the iconic new Umhlanga Arch, having worked with Craft of Architecture to develop a strategy to suit all its specialist coating and paint application requirements.

Although Umhlanga Arch was one large, all-encompassing project, it consisted of no less than six self-contained sub-projects, each with its own deadlines. Working on a high-rise development posed a unique challenge to Smith & Winfield – that of getting material and labour up and down 32 floors daily, while trying to maximise production. To combat this, the company hired a full-time contracts manager and at the height of production, a large team of 100 painters was executing various tasks.

Further challenges lay in the fact that the development is situated a stone’s throw away from the coastline, making the climate harsh and abrasive – a hurdle easily overcome with Plascon’s robust and resilient coating system. Another area that required problem-solving was the BMW showroom ceiling, where Smith & Winfield combatted the patchy effect evident on the skimmed surface and various imperfections (creating an inconsistent finish) by overcoating with Plascon Professional All Purpose Matt (PEM800).

In a similar solution-based fashion, various products were selected to address the needs of the different spaces (all designated for specific uses). Externally, the firm used Plascon Professional Gypsum & Plaster Primer (PP700), Plascon Professional Waterproofing Compound (PWC 520), and Plascon Wall & All. This combination worked to bridge plaster cracking and increase waterproofing to the building.

Internally, Plascon Professional Gypsum & Plaster Primer (PP700), Plascon Double Velvet (for the residential and loft spaces), and Plascon Professional Low Sheen (PEM1000) (for the Hilton Hotel) were chosen for their durability and washability. While for the timberwork, Plascon Wood Primer (UC2) and Plascon Velvaglo W/B (VLW1) ensured a durable and importantly, washable finish.

In line with the contemporary, but accessible and community-oriented concept of the development itself, the Plascon colours 51 Geneva Morn, 53 Paris Paving and 49 Mandarin Tusk were selected to define the building’s identity.

The end result enhances the striking architecture, adding long-term value to this landmark development.