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Nelson Mandela Youth and Heritage Centre
Qunu, Eastern Cape


Type:Community Centre
2007BKIA Award for Architecture


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31°46'58.26" S 28°36'45.78" E Alt: 920m

BKIA Award for Architecture Citation

The centre was commissioned by the Department of Arts and Culture in honour of Dr. Nelson Mandela as Qunu component to complete Nelson Mandela Museum belt comprise of Bunga Building in Mthatha and Mvezo component.

The centre also aims at providing opportunity for the youth and tourists to meet Thembu communities one to one and exchange perception of different cultures and common humanity.

The centre is built on a hill at Qunu Village 35 kilometres from Mthatha. It is surrounded by Xhosa rural architecture which is predominantly rondavels and few traditional modern structures.

The loose nature of the concept demonstrates the understanding of the surrounding rural context characterised by small scaled human related structures randomly placed to create positive outdoor spaces.

The centre is broken into small building components placed randomly on a curvilinear path, along the contours and developed around thick solid brick wall which forms a spine and run through the centre. The wall is punctured with doors leading into the rooms and broken up in some areas to give access to courtyards created between buildings. The wall is pulled through from each side and stopped to create main grand entrance which is celebrated with tall roof structure behind.

You enter the site through the communal space covered with a tall steel roof structure visible from the N2 and on the left side flanked with community hall, Craft shops, Caretaker flat, Ablutions and Exhibition area directly opposite the entrance.

To the right side of the main entrance the walkway between buildings draws you in and slowly reveals itself in a form of Admin office, Resource/Conference centre, Sleeping units, Sports Hall, Dining hall and Ablutions. The walkway is shaded with laths from the direct sun and cast shadows on the ground in a forest effect.

The building structure comprises of three elements a steel frame, infill walls and glass. The walls have rounded edges simulating rural architecture and painted in earth coats with different colours.

The communal spaces and walkways have a variety of finishes from smooth grano to different types of textured cobble finishes.

The centre demonstrates a progressive approach in the organization of traditional settings while using new materials and introducing new settings, new shapes, and even activities are used to create traditional spatial, conceptual and social organization.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

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