UP Consumer and Food Sciences Students Celebrate the Indigenous Ingredients Foraged on the Future Africa Campus

UPAloes at the Admin Building
Aloes take a stand at the UP Admin Building

The Department of Consumer and Food Sciences of the University of Pretoria is hosting a special dinner to celebrate our indigenous food of which some of these ingredients will be foraged on their Future Africa Campus. DIANE DE BEER spoke to botanist and curator Jason Sampson as well as some of the other participants about this exciting concept:

 

This is not the first time the students of Consumer and Food Sciences will focus on indigenous ingredients, but it is their first foray into the Future Africa Campus.

The gardens at Future Africa were purposefully designed and developed to cultivate and produce edible and indigenous plants.  “We developed a menu to celebrate and use some of these ingredients in the menu that were available and as it was the end of the season for some of these products, we were able to harvest them and include them in our menu (like water chestnuts and makataan),” explained associate professor Gerrie Du Rand in charge of the Hospitality Management Final year students who will be preparing the dinner.IMG-20190730-WA0026

“What is exciting about this garden is the fact that many of these plants are unusual and not freely available and it provided our students the opportunity to celebrate these ingredients in a challenging manner with an unusual menu.”

Much of the expertise and help was given by botanist Jason Sampson from the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, the man responsible for among others the botanical garden on the main campus of the University of Pretoria which holds a collection of living plants that is scientifically managed for the purposes of education, research, conservation as well as community service.

Known as the Manie van der Schiff Botanical Gardens, the aim is to raise awareness of our indigenous plant heritage and if you’re fortunate to be taken around the campus by Sampson, it’s as if the campus becomes a living organism with aloe walks on the Hillcrest campus and his magnificent fully fledged plant wall for the masterfully designed Plant Science building which functions as insulation as well as an aesthetically pleasing feature while also mimicking the natural habitat of some very unique plants.

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The rainwater harvesting plant (part of the Mining Engineering Study Centre of UP) with rain garden ponds and a storage tank

From the rose garden which was replaced by an aloe garden in front of the admin building (possibly the most visible ship structure on the most southern point of the campus), to what is referred to as a living laboratory, the rainwater harvesting plant (which is part of the Mining Engineering Study Centre of UP with a series of rain garden ponds and a storage tank which was installed as a reactive storm-water control system), someone has a firm eye on sustainability in these expansive grounds and to the scarcity of water in the future.

Working with UP’s resident architect, Neal Dunstan, they saved the university a stack of money but also created a system that harvests enough water for the glorious botanical gardens.

“The aloes haven’t been watered for six months,” he says and of course, that’s the point. And as you drive further through the campus, the signs of replanting and water-resistant plants are overwhelming. You just have to pay attention. This is truly forward thinking.

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The pod of the Lowveld chestnut. Inside is a handful of large, black, oily nuts with a soft shell. Delectable!

All of these projects and unique plant species are also available for study purposes as are the gardens that Sampson is involved in on the Future Africa campus. “There are quite a few master and doctorate studies to be done here,” says the man who describes his role on the new campus as “advising and interfering”.

And believe me he will. But with his passion for and knowledge of especially indigenous flora and to the benefit of the Consumer and Food Sciences students, a love for food, he will walk you through those gardens, still only in their infancy, and if you listen to him talking, have dishes rolling off his tongue.

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African Horned Melon , ripe and harvested. Picture: Hennie Fisher

His conversation centres on edible gardens, food forests and the need to diversify food crops which also leads to wild food plants. Today the world is dependent on five staples – none of which come from Africa. He points to the Irish food famine for example as a country that was solely dependent on one staple – and then starved. He knows this is a simplistic version but is also a reminder of food shortages and famine in the future.

“We need to focus on our little known orphan and African crops,” and here he points to examples like African berries (of which there are different kinds), a local grape version that instead of a bunch, forms single large grapes on a rounded bush or as an exotic example, the dragon fruit cactus which he is especially keen on as a vining waterwise fruit which could substitute for grapes to make what he believes will be excellent wine.

Cactus is a thing that he feels can be used in different ways (“eat the weeds”) and he is also keen on a sugar sorghum which delivers two food crops: wheat and sugar.

It’s one of the strengths he argues one finds in African crops. Most modern crops are single usage crops where a marula for example has multiple outputs. We would use the fruit, the nut, the bark and there would be a medicinal purpose introduced as well.

UP plant wall
Fully fledged plant wall for the UP Plant Science building

He feels we have been behind the times with indigenous planting (and he’s not against bringing in a few exotics). Some of his current plants in the Future Africa gardens include big-leafed spekboom (a different version of the plant that has become so fashionable in the past few years), Lowveld chestnuts that grow only around Mbombela and Barberton, the Pondoland coconut which is almost extinct in the wild, a horned cucumber which is farmed commercially in New Zealand and grows wild throughout Southern Africa, a makataan (wild watermelon) – and he can go on and on and give numerous ways of using these edible plants in innovative ways.

That’s exactly what the students were tasked to do. Research a menu, take the guidance from Sampson and then harvest what they need for their specific menu. What they have come up with is a truly innovative forward-thinking meal under the guidance of a student tasked with putting together a menu: Zandile Finxa. They also had to stick to a curriculum which not only introduces the different local ingredients but also a range of cooking methods.

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Makataan (wild watermelons) being processed Pictures: Hennie Fisher

It starts with an arrival snack consisting of a savoury Msoba (nightshade berry) panna cotta, aloe and spekboom salad and wild African sage (of which Sampson says, there are 27 different species in South Africa alone!).

The starter is a panfried Amadumbe gnocchi with African water chestnut mash (found with what will become a huge crop of waterblommetjies in the rainwater harvesting pond), roasted balsamic beetroot, guinea fowl with beetroot extract and biltong; followed by a mains of seared sous-vide Kudu loin with ting (sorghum) prepared risotto style, butter-tossed waterblommetjies, rooibos smoked carrots, creamed marogo and a venison red wine jus.

To end on a sweet note, there’s a chocolate and carob (of which the trees also grow at the university) macaron with milktart cream filling, amarula ice cream, horned melon and plumbago gell with a cinnamon and wild rosemary crumb.

Guests are then presented with a gift of glazed makataan (wild watermelon) and according to Sampson, this is a fruit of which the peel is considered to make the best watermelon preserve/jam and if you mix the fruit itself with pap, it’s lip-smacking.

UP Aloes on the Campus
The vibrant and revitalising aloe revolution at UP

The dinner will be pre-empted by a public lecture by Prof Herb Meiselman, an internationally known expert in sensory and consumer research, product development and food service who will deliver a public lecture on The influence of context/environment and psycho-graphics on product design and evaluation prior to the dinner for those who are interested.

Sensory and Consumer Research has changed dramatically over the past 20 years, moving from pure sensory research to a broad array of tests involving the psychology of the consumer and the place where testing and product consumption are done. While testing used to focus on the product being tested, it now includes the consumer and the environment.

 

 Booking details:

Date: 7 August 2019 Time: 7pm for 7.30pm Venue: Future Africa Complex RSVP and Enquiries: Prof Gerrie du Rand, 012 420 3547 or gerrie.durand@up.ac.za Tickets R300 per person.

 

The Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria Aims to Forge a Partnership between the University and the Public

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Gauteng’s latest art centre featuring a handful of galleries, something which can stand as a counterpoint to Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA and Norval Foundation, is in the process of being built on the edges of the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield and South campuses. Named the Javett Art Centre at the University of Pretoria (Javett-UP) in honour of its philanthropic donor, work started in 2016 and the Centre is set to open in the first half of 2019. DIANE DE BEER spoke to the architect Pieter Mathews whose firm Mathews and Associates designed the Centre as a link to the people: 

Javett Art Centre at UP (Liam Purnell) (2)
Javett Art Centre in the making. (Liam Purnell)

 

Even before we get to the art, which is really what the Javett Art Centre is all about, there’s the building – and according to lead and concept architect Pieter Mathews it is easily the most challenging project his firm has ever worked on.

Keeping in mind that with these grand art projects, the buildings have become as important as the art featured, the fact that the first concept design was penned at the end of 2012, captures the complexity of the endeavour. With the help of project architect Liam Purnell assisted by two project dedicated architects Carla Spies and Jannes Hattingh, their goal has been to create a space that would activate the connection between art and architecture. That’s also why the specific site (one of three options) was selected, because of the proximity of the Boukunde Building and the Visual Art Building that flank the Art Centre. “It makes sense that those three should be linked,” says Mathews.

It also complicated the challenge because it meant that they would be building across one of Tshwane’s main arteries, Lynnwood Road and yet, because of their approach, it will heighten the visual appeal as well as the visibility of the centre. They have turned the bridge into a huge feature wrapped in lightweight concrete cloth that reaches across the exterior and interior based on the much-loved shweshwe fabric. This “cloth” displays many different features including a play of light and shadow also turning the bridge into an expansive feature when it is illuminated at night. “It almost looks like fairy lights glistening in the middle of the road,” explains the architect about this design feature which has strong South African connections which embraces all its people.

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Shadows in Play at Lynnwood Road. (Liam Purnell).

But the bridge is also the connector between the public and the students and academics, the two campus sites and the diversity which is embraced on campus

The other reason for the site is that while it has one section on the main Hatfield campus, the section that crosses to the far side of Lynnwood Road will offer the public easy access to the galleries as well as a restaurant which will be part of the complex and is planned as an inviting addition for museum visits.

Apart from the bridge, which is also an exhibition space and offers visual invitations to the other galleries, the Mapungubwe gallery – which will house one of the most important collections entrusted to the stewardship of the University of Pretoria – is the other focal point of the Centre, towering into the sky. It adds to the dominance of the building not only because of the design but also its height.

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The Javett Art Centre at University of Pretoria reaching across Lynnwood Road. (Hein Dedekind)

 

The building will profoundly change the landscape of the campus as well as the city. When complete, it will comprise nine distinct exhibition spaces, one of which will be housed in the iconic bridge and in addition to the Javett Foundation’s collection of 20th century SA Art and contemporary collections from the University as well as private donors, Director Christopher Till will feature exciting rotating exhibitions and the students, from across the university, will have rolling exhibitions in the dedicated student gallery. The Centre, with its focus on the Art of Africa, will also include a sophisticated restoration department and an auditorium which can be used for performances or public lectures.

Other design features that had to be taken into account were heritage buildings in the vicinity which are reflected in the design of facing walls of the new structure, trees that had to be maintained, the extension of the main artery of the university known as Tukkie Laan and the inclusion of two main squares, the Art Square which embraces both the art and the architecture students on either side and the Museum Square which is the public entrance to the galleries from different public parking spaces.

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Before any of this even started, Mathews, who has just been awarded the Medal of Honour for Visual Arts (Architecture) by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns, went on a 10 day museum tour courtesy of the Mellon Foundation accompanied by the late Stephan Welz who was also instrumental in the appointment of his architectural firm together with Prof Antony Melck and Prof Karel Bakker from the department at UP where Mathews studied. It was a learning curve, an intense museum tour to different world-class institutions visiting everything from their restoration spaces to their storage facilities. They were also introduced to different curators and the way they shaped their exhibitions, all of which had an impact on the final design.

And with something this all-encompassing as the Javett Art Centre, they had to find a unifying leitmotif to bind the various elements like the bridge wrapping, the faceted concrete shell structure of the Mapungubwe “mountain”, galvanised steel pergolas and all the other building elements. The solution was found in the colour scheme determined by the concrete cladding – a natural light grey. When they want to separate various elements, they will use charcoal as the shadow colour.

Javett - UP - View 05~1Anyone who knows the architect, will deem this a perfect fit – not only because of his innovative design skills, but also because he has always combined art with architecture. “I am an ambassador for the visual environment, “ says Mathews whose firm designed amongst others the Nellmapius Bridge on the N1; the New Mussina Bridge as gateway into South Africa (expected completion date end of this year); Transport Architecture TRT stations in the historic sensitive Pretoria CBD, (for example, Rivonia Trial station opposite the Old Synagogue); and various award-winning educational buildings for city schools, including Afrikaans Hoër Meisieskool and a new music centre for Afrikaanse Hoër Seunskool. He and his Cool Capital team also hosted and designed the 2017 South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

He is happy that he and his team have a good hold on this massive project. “I am very confident in the collective brain at work here.”

*The building will be completed by the beginning of next year.

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Inclusive and Socially Responsible Architecture for the Future: Transform or Die

What would define the human city? Who are the participants in design – and who are being ignored? These were questions posed at the 2018 Architecture ZA18 (AZA18) held in Tshwane’s city centre’s regenerated space 012 Central this past weekend. DIANE DE BEER reports on the conference that explored sustainable, adaptive and integrated cities that can respond to growing social, economic and environmental challenges, under the theme WeTheCity: Memory & Resilience:

 

3D image of Printout of Pretoria
3D image of Pretoria

 

Transform or die!

That was one of the first slogans thrown out there at the conference almost as a challenge to the more than 600 architecture students from across the country and Namibia who made up more than half of the participatory delegates, the rest of who were professional architects.

The role of architects in the built environment is being increasingly highlighted as new opportunities are created towards improved resource consumption, economic and social dynamism, market creation, human development and climate change adaptation. But we must pay attention.

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Opening of the AZA18 Conference in the city centre’s 012 Central

“We have already seen the results of rapid climate change,” said Prof Christina du Plessis introducing the themes of the conference. And we are ill prepared even though all the predictions, for example, pointed to the drought situation in the Cape.

“People think that with some rain, things will return to normal,” she says. “What we have now is the new normal. It is not an emergency situation, it’s here to stay.”

She pointed out that we have created a world we don’t know how to inhabit, and we find it difficult to adapt to the fast changes that are constantly barrelling towards us. “We have to start thinking out of the box” or we will be overwhelmed by the increasing social divisions so dominant in our world and becoming worse every day.

“We aren’t separate from the environments we create. To be resilient, we have to think and respond positively to change,” she said, kickstarting the conference into action.

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Mexican architect Gabriela Carrillo

 

That’s exactly where Mexican Architect of the Year in the 2017 Women in Architecture Awards by The Architectural Review and the Architects Journal, Gabriela Carrillo, is focussed.

In a country where only 7 percent of the population can afford architects, it becomes a profession for the elite, something she battles constantly and for which she has developed strategies because of working in a place always in crisis.

“It’s all about working with what you have and being as inclusive as possible while transforming. We are in constant dialogue between the contemporary and the original. It is important to take advantage of the old structure when thinking of renewal,” she says.

 

One of these projects was an oral court in a country where many people are incarcerated for decades without trial and often innocent. “It was about creating democracy for people who don’t have liberty,” she explains. “The main difficulty was to adhere to strict security rules while at the same time suggesting an idea of space that would give everyone a feeling of freedom and transparency.”

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Criminal Courts for Oral Trials in Pátzcuaro, Michoacán

She argues strongly that spaces in city can transform social encounters. And in South Africa with our still separate spaces and living areas that would be especially valid. “We need to practise architecture that can evolve and embrace problems.”

It’s all about how architecture can articulate what a space is about.

She is also constantly aware of people who can’t afford architects. “We have to look at ways to do it economically by for example reminding people when they have forgotten where they are.” Here she pointed to Mexicans in rural areas where wood is freely available and yet they feel they have to build in bricks or concrete.

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An outside view of the inclusively driven oral courts

“We can help and be part of everyone’s dignity which is part of wellness for everyone,” she maintains. She knows that life is about more than simply having food and water. “Better quality spaces are important. But we politicise space,” she warns.

From her university period, she set her sights on a specific future by attending a largely free university where the population was completely mixed- the full strata. “Many of us still teach there even though the pay is dismal,” she says. “We know the difference it makes to lives to learn in this kind of inclusive environment.”

She chooses her projects very carefully and those that are profitable will allow her to expand into areas where she might not make money. “I don’t make money but my life is rich in many different ways. My job is not a job, it is a passion,” she says.

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Cameroon Architect Hermann Kamte

Still in the first years of his career, Cameroonian architect Hermann Kamte has similar ideas about designing for his people while retaining a spirit of Africa in everything he does. “It’s important to preserve who we are,” he says.

Wood is currently his preferred building block and won him much attention in the architectural world when he designed a Lagos-based wooden skyscraper for an international competition.

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He explains that because Lagos was in its earlier life a tropical rain forest, it makes sense to turn to wood. “It’s about our past and what it represents symbolically,” he says. He also believes that you use what you find around you and often, in Africa, it is wood. “People think you are simply providing food for termites,” but for him it is about this moment and place and the relationship between the people and their environment.

He advocates strongly for the culture of a specific place to be reflected and views it as the legacy between the past, present and future generations. And then go bold, he advises, which is exactly what he does with his Yoruba-dictated design and patterns so much part of his wooden tower-block building, which won the WAFX Prize in the inaugural cultural identity category in 2017

It is all about specificity. Only two days into his Pretoria visit, he realised that bricks and concrete are the preferred building materials here. “You have to pay attention to the culture,” he warns.

And he is serious about his architecture future and interventions. “You can’t make it happen, but you can make it possible,” is his motto.

Sponsored by the South African Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP), the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC), PPC and Boogertman + Partners, AZA18 offered an important platform for engaging around solutions and ideas that are regenerative, adaptive and diverse in the face of new scenarios – in discussion with some of architecture’s key thinkers and practitioners.

The conference organisers were clear about their forward thinking in their selection of both the venue in Pretoria’s city centre and their choice of speakers. Be socially responsible and do socially responsible projects or sustainability won’t even come into play.