Following an extensive, two-year re-build and renovation, The Oyster Box re-opened in November 2009. The main building complex has undergone a number of changes since 1947, the most notable architectural interventions occurring during the 1950s, with the addition of components such as simplified archways, a spiral staircase and a variety of largely unrelated, vaguely Mediterranean decorative elements. This almost ‘haphazard’ approach led to a ‘relaxed’, comfortable look and feel that guests easily related to.
A calm white aesthetic ensures a casual yet elegant ambiance throughout the building, reminiscent of the Mediterranean. The recognisable black and white chequer-board floor has been re-instated throughout. The double volume, day-lit atrium ‘Palm Court’ is now at the ‘heart’ of the new hotel with all the other areas rippling out from there. An entirely new floor level was added to tastefully create additional banqueting space, conference, business and meeting facilities and the impressive new Lighthouse Bar overlooking the iconic red and white lighthouse and the Indian Ocean.
While the building connects to the ocean on the one side, it also relates intimately to its newly modelled internal courtyards and lush central garden. The architects and landscape consultant, worked closely to re-create a luxurious, glamorous, colonial feel in the gardens, in keeping with the architectural style of the hotel, while making it lush and sultry to fit into the tropical landscape.
The garden is flanked on all sides by buildings, thereby enhancing its spatial qualities. On the western boundary, the new Spa acts as the main focal point in the garden, reinforced by the introduction of a reflection pond between the garden and Spa.
In keeping with the tradition of many decades, the building still interacts closely with the ocean. The location informs the design of the building’s east elevation: much like a one-sided grand-stand where the vistas are exploited for the ever-changing show of seascapes. In order to deal with the harsh climatic conditions of late afternoon sun and corroding sea spray, the building’s east façade features pergola shading and covered balconies and arcades. An added detail is the re-painting of the roof a bright red, as in years gone by...as a beacon for shippers.
Landscaping – Notable Features
The rehabilitation of the site and the initiation of the planting plan, was started soon after the hotel was closed for renovations. Planning of the new gardens was a collaborative effort between landscaper, architect and owners. The result is a landscape that has a luxurious, glamorous, colonial feel to suit the architectural style of the hotel, while at the same time a sense of sultry lushness to fit into the tropical landscape. All the aloes, and a number of the mature plants, were re-located to a local nursery; and all the large established indigenous trees, were cared for, in situ, during the building phase.
Interior Design – Public areas – Notable Features
A number of the original landmarks remain intact in the new structure. From the grand, revolving door at the entrance, to the reception and foyer with its original black and white terrazzo tiles, wrought-iron balustrade and inlaid hand-painted tiles and friezes.
The Oyster Box, Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, KwaZulu-Natal