The Windmills is a mixed-use, rural development at the Nottingham Road turn-off on the N3, 120km west of Durban. Koop design has been involved in the upgrading of the existing motel, additions and alterations to the petrol station – now know as the Ultra Stop – and the design and construction of The Chapel on the Lake. The Chapel has been successful in generating an events business at The Windmills, and the client subsequently commissioned a 300 seater reception building that would serve as a convention and event space.

The venue is designed to have a strong relationship with its neighboring buildings, supporting a master-plan and the range of amenities available within the complex.

The purpose of the building is a large flexible reception space. It was conceived as an interior that by its nature was aesthetically pleasing, without requiring decoration. The budget was limited; therefore the building process was reduced to as few processes as possible. It was decided to use the structure as the aesthetic driver of the building.

A timber portal frame was designed to span the full 16m of the space. This frame uses laminated saligna beams that are manufactured Lamtim, in the Midlands. Steel connecting brackets designed to be concealed within the timber, allowing for on site bolted assembly of the large components; were supplied by Rebcon in Pinetown. The design was a close collaboration between Richard Stretton and Andrew Scott of ARUP.

A small team of carpenters, assisted by the Rebcon riggers lifted the portals into position. Smaller bracing beams, designed to provide a folded plane across the ceiling connect the portals to secondary rafters. The bracing beams are positioned close together to enhance the folded plane across the ceiling. The basic geometry of the portal induces a 3D distortion of the folded ceiling. It is this complex geometry generated through a simple process that provides the aesthetic detail and interest of the space.

The building is designed very simply from the exterior. It is designed to be an enchanting interior experience. The use of timber technology to generate both structural performance and aesthetic delight is the core of this submission. The carbon sequestration provided by the use of timber as a structure adds to the environmental economy of the project. The glazed south facing elevation ties the space to the environment and controls natural light.