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David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

South Africa Architecture News - Nov 23, 2020 - 12:37   8089 views

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

David Adjaye's firm Adjaye Associates has revealed cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa. The new project, named Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library, will comprise eight cylindirical volumes referencing to the structures of granaries in Africa's vernacular architecture. 

Adjaye will use locally sourced compressed mud to form a rammed earth facade for these cylindirical volumes. 

The building, covering a total of 5,400-square-metre area, will include museum, temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium, women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience, seminar rooms, office space, archive center, and service spaces.

"The Thabo Mbeki Centre presents an opportunity to realize the ambition of the dreams of President Thabo Mbeki to advance and empower an African renaissance," said David Adjaye, founder and principal of Adjaye Associates.  

"The architecture of the Library taps into the collective memory of the continent through the establishment of a new historical centre for African consciousness in which knowledge, education and sustenance are nurtured in the representation and intelligence of the continent."

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Intersection between North and Main Avenue

Located in Johannesburg, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library will provide a space of excellence, learning, research, discourse and cultural exchange predicated on the African perspective. 

The new Library will feature a multiplicity of functions including a museum, temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium, women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience space, seminar rooms, office space and an archive center. 

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Main Avenue Entrance

The archive center will act as a repository for the papers, artifacts and key documents of President Mbeki and other significant African historical figures. 

"Providing infrastructure for the preservation and distribution of African history and knowledge, the Library will become a new anchorpoint and campus for local and international scholars," said Adjaye Associates.

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Reading Room

The studio said that "conceptually, the new building makes visible the invisible knowledge of ancient and contemporary African history through both form and program." 

"Sited in Riviera, Johannesburg, the Library will harbour the knowledge of the land whilst acting as a space for connection in which the advancement of an African Renaissance becomes the premise of the structure." 

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Research Centre

Represented in design as a metaphor for knowledge- based nourishment, the new building references the structures of granaries — which allow for the extension of grain production and the systematization of cycles of feeding, planting and harvesting.

Adjaye Associates uses African architecture "as a tool to reimagine storage and sustenance into form, the granary stores guide the overall building concept." 

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Aerial View

The eight cylindrical granary-styled forms are made contemporary through the topping of domes with apertures that take into consideration the solar orientation of light within the site to create a distinct atmosphere for each of the programs within. 

The internal infrastructure of these chambers see to it that the building accommodates a multiplicity of programmatic functions. They are connected through an ‘indoor den’ — a horizontal interstitial space that extends the length of the entire building to provide a new public space in service to the community.

In the interiors, the studio will use terrazzo flooring made from local stone and timber cladding from local wood species collectively reduce the overall carbon footprint of the structure. 

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Ground Floor Level

"Through a site-specific understanding of the subtropical highland climate of Johannesburg, solar harvesting is utilized through state of the art photo-voltaic solar panels, located on the rooftop absorbing sunlight and generating electricity," added the studio.

Geothermal heating and thickened walls harness the earth’s energy by storing heat during the day and releasing it later at night to warm the building when temperatures drop.

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Roof view

The architecture of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library brings together continental African thought and form as a powerful means of tapping into collective memory. 

This memory, embedded within the intelligence of the African consciousness, now sees a typology of learning and a typology of sustenance materialize into form.

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Long section

"My vision for the new presidential library aims to encompass both an African past and an African future. It will be a place where Africans uncover their own history and identity. A place where we are empowered to script a brighter and more prosperous future," said President Thabo Mbeki.

"Through this wonderful collaboration with Sir David Adjaye and his team, I believe this building will become the epicentre for an African renaissance — a place of pride, celebration and future- forward thinking in which a strong sense of the African identity is empowered for further leadership in service to humanity."

David Adjaye reveals cylindirical Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Johannesburg, South Africa

Volume Subtraction Diagram

Adjaye Associates will work with local architecture firm MMA Design Studio on this project.

Adjaye Associates recently unveiled design for Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria. The studio is also working on the Martyrs Memorial in Niger.

Project facts

Project name: Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Architects: Adjaye Associates

Client: Thabo Mbeki Foundation

Local architect: MMA Design Studio

Area: 5,400 sm / 58,125 sf

Program: Museum, temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium, women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience, seminar rooms, office space, archive center, and service spaces.

All images and video courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

> via Adjaye Associates