CAPE TOWN HIGH COURT

Keerom St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000

Client: Western Cape Government

Category: Refurbishments & Renovation

Sector: Public

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Accessible facilities for all

The Cape Town High Court is a heritage site situated within Cape Town, South Africa. Commonly known as the Cape High Court, a superior court of law with general jurisdiction over the Western Cape.

Overview

AR Projects had been contracted to the Cape Town High Court for a period of 9 months with the objective to elevate the court in becoming more accessible for people with disabilities. The High Court project involved various types of renovations which included:

  • Toilet renovations
  • Installing handrails on all the staircases
  • The addition of emergency staircases
  • Wireless emergency panic buttons
  • Import and install a product called FlexStep, which combines a staircase and a lifting platform.
  • Reconstructed the judges benches and seating areas
  • Recreated a rare tiled mosaic

The Cape High Court is made up of 3 buildings – the original Cape Town High Court, the Civil Addicts building and the Consolidated building.

Challenges

Being a heritage site, the Cape Town High Court building came with a few challenges:

  • All three buildings are accompanied by there own set of heritage rules and regulations.
  • The newly installed structures had to seamlessly tie in with the already existing structure.
  • All work had to be done after hours as normal court proceedings would need to be conducted during the day.
  • Getting the workers on site was challenging as, being in the CBD, popular nightlife corridor, Long street, was right around the corner.
  • Security clearance and access cards as well as each worker needed to be screened before entering particular sections of the court.

 

Site Details

Within the building there were special mosaic tiles which proved hard to source as it is not a standard sized tile of 20mm x 25mm. These rare tiles had to be custom made by Douglas Johns and presented to the client for approval.

The rare mosaic needed to be imported and recreated.

Being an older building, all the signage had to be updated as all the previous signage were non-compliant to SABS regulation. This proved challenging to implement as certain areas within the building are restricted to the High Court and their employees.

When we undertook the renovation of the toilets the main goal was to ensure the facility was accessible and accommodative to people with disabilities. With this in mind, we added an emergency panic button which alerts the security office if someone needs help. The design and installation of this system was done in such a way where the security personnel need to go to the location of the alarm to deactivate it, this ensures the person in need gets assistance. The entire emergency system is wireless, using repeaters to transfer the signal without the need to lay down 5000 meters of cable. The wireless system is one of a kind and is now being replicated within other courts.

One of the reasons for focusing on improving accessibility for the disabled, was that the Cape High Court employs judges with disabilities. This lead to the reconstruction of the judges bench as well as installing ramps at the relevant access points. We had to reuse as many materials as possible and when we were obligated to use new materials, a seamless integration with the existing structure was needed.

State-of-the-art accessibility

Inside one of the sections of the High Court we sourced and installed a product called FlexStep.

The state-of-the-art FlexStep system

FlexStep is a mechanical staircase that transforms into a solid landing, allowing a person with disabilities to either raise or lower themselves on the platform. Within a few minutes after the person has left, the FlexStep would return to its original state as a staircase.