The house that yoga built

Private Property South Africa

Creating an aesthetically appealing, eco-friendly space that meets the needs of yoga practitioners is no easy task – especially when the space in question has to be fashioned from the shell of an old shopping centre. But, towards the end of 2013, The Yoga Republic did just that.

According to owners Claire and Clint Smith, the centre came about primarily as a result of the need to create a centrally located, multi-purpose establishment in Fontainebleau that could accommodate numerous yoga styles and promote a healthy lifestyle in an eco-friendly fashion.

Finding such a space within the boundaries of Fontainebleau proved difficult. Eventually, an opportunity presented itself in the form of a small, somewhat dilapidated corner shopping centre, which Claire and Clint believed had the potential to meet their needs. The couple successfully made an offer to purchase the property and started renovation work towards the end of 2012.

“Esoteric” influences

Before work began, the pair called on a Vaastu Shastra consultant. Vaastu Shastra engages with the concept of directional elements in architectural settings. The practise also takes into account the laws of nature and their effect on dwellings, and is believed to facilitate health, harmony, balance and prosperity.

To the couple’s surprise, they were advised to turn their original building plans around to best facilitate the centre’s energy flow. They re-arranged the building’s layout accordingly and inserted energy plates that have been prayed on by priests in India, under the building’s foundations, to further enhance its energy flow. Colourful murals depicting auspicious animals have since been painted at various strategic points to further enhance the generation and flow of energy.

The real work

The real work then began. The centre was gutted and the roof raised to make room for a second storey. According to Clint, a significant proportion of the centre’s original building material such as the roof trusses and clay bricks were re-used to craft the centre’s new walls and spaces. Wherever possible, unused material was sent to a building recycling plant.

Numerous eco-friendly elements were incorporated into the centre such as insulation, industrial integrated heat pumps, waterless urinals, motion sensor activated LED lights, double glazed UPVC frames and “low-e” (low emissivity) glass windows. The centre’s air is naturally cooled by passive roof vents, all waste is recycled and solar power generation, rain water harvesting, water purification and recycling systems are in the pipeline.

A significant amount of the work was undertaken directly by Clint who also owns his own eco-consulting, project management and green building solutions company, The Green Initiative.

What the centre offers

The Yoga Republic offers multiple studios, one of which is purpose built for hot yoga, a rooftop garden practice area, toilets and showers, a herb garden, body-work rooms, an outdoor patio, storerooms, offices, a vegetarian café, a health supplement and eco-friendly product shop, and a chemical free pool, where swimming and hydrotherapy classes are held.

Aesthetics-wise, many of the walls have been left “naked”. Those that have been painted were coated with olive-hued environmentally-friendly paint or brushed with a thin layer of cement. Reclaimed palette wood and raw steel has been used in much of the centre’s furniture and to enhance some of the architectural accent points such as the staircase, landing and kitchen façade. Large glass doors and windows are a prominent feature and allow plenty of natural sunlight and air in throughout the day.

The effect

The overall effect is one of an informal, uncontrived aesthetic. The centre’s rugged, somewhat industrial lines are softened by the warm feature walls and personal touches such as a custom brick and wire chandelier, a handmade yin-yang wall feature, hanging heart-shaped glass orbs, and inspirational words imprinted into the staircase.

The couple’s eco-friendly initiatives have also paid off from a cost-savings point of view. Despite effectively doubling its footprint, the centre has reduced its energy costs to a quarter of what it used to at its previous location at a shopping centre on Republic Road.

The centre has proved a hit with the surrounding community. In addition to approximately 50 weekly yoga classes, the centre is now also being used for workshops and fundraisers.

Suffice to say, The Yoga Republic stands out. It has breathed new life into what was once a drab pocket of Fontainebleau and serves a very real demand for a healthy lifestyle and exercise in an environmentally-sensitive fashion.

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