To fulfil its primary purpose, an international convention centre needs to be large enough to accommodate plenary sessions of thousands of delegates, as well as trade exhibitions such as motor shows, while providing all the attendant breakaway and meeting rooms, auditoria, banqueting halls, kitchens, bathrooms and so on. Yet to succeed on an operational level it must also have facilities that can comfortably cater for smaller functions such as weddings, product launches and cultural events.
Efforts were made to open up the design on this large, inhospitable and, in many ways, tricky site. As one example wide entrances were incorporated which have the effect of opening up to invite the city and its people into the space. Another inclusive aspect of the design was the creation of an encompassing new public space. Called Convention Square, this space brings focus on the comings and goings of the Roggebaai Canal, where both the main entrance of the CTICC and that of the Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel are situated. The Roggebaai Canal extends from Convention Square, the important public space where various modes of transport intersect, to the Victoria & Alfred (V&A Waterfront. As such, it serves as a visible umbilical link between the city and the sea.
Proximity of the adjacent Eastern Boulevard flyover presented an interesting challenge in terms of traffic noise. Yet it resulted in a positive attribute with regard to ease of access. The noise issue was overcome by relying on closed conservatories to exclude traffic sounds and the Cape's notoriously strong winds. These also provide the greening that gives visitors a sense of being in a living, breathing, natural environment. This greening of the interiors embraces the Cape's status as one of the seven botanical kingdoms of the world, with indigenous South African species strongly featured.
The space under-the flyover provides a natural access point for delivery vehicles, catering crew and exhibition infrastructure. Noise sensitive parts of the centre are blocked off from the highway while large sections of the buildings that face onto the city comprise glass curtaining, making the building transparent to the extent that commuters in the city are able to see through the centre to the harbour beyond.
This is a particularly spectacular sight when large cruise liners visit the port and are berthed in Duncan Dock beyond. The organisation of the building is logical and relatively simple. Large exhibition rooms are serviced from the hostile area under the freeways, transforming barren space into a marshalling yard.
A triple level gallery or spine is the cohesive element that extends the full length of the centre and links all elements of the building in a logical, unified system.
Practicalities also governed the design style and tone of the interiors. The design brief demanded that they should not only offer a clean, contemporary look as a foil to any style of event, but that they should also be extremely durable and easily maintained.