Hustles Explains the Creative Compass of an Architect and a Photographer with a Contemporary African Space

DIANE DE BEER

I am fascinated by the idea that the greatest architecture in the city has happened by accident

Thomas Chapman.

Hustles1

Hustles – Five Years Of Local Studio by architect Thomas Chapman with photographer Dave Southwood:

 

Because of the time I’m writing in, I couldn’t speak to the author(s) face to face, but really didn’t need to, because they state their purpose so clearly in the book Hustle – Five years of Local Studio by Thomas Chapman (Photographer: David Southwood).

The title, explains the architect Thomas Chapman, refers to the “opportunistic process of becoming local – of using design to solve urban problems amidst immense financial and time constraints – and throughout this process, trying to hustle an architectural product that is present, engaged, hopeful and ultimately, never boring”.

Knowing a few of their buildings but also having read this book, they can never be accused of that – boring! No sir!

Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre
Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre.

With this book then, Thomas wanted to capture the spirit of the five past years of his practice, which consisted entirely of projects that required hustling of some form or another to get the project done.

In the meantime, he states, while compiling the book, they have embarked on a new phase for the practice with “more trusting clients, (slightly) bigger project budgets and hence a greater refinement in design and construction.

He admits to it being tempting to include some of these projects to extract value from what was becoming a very expensive book, but he resolved to draw the line at 99 Juta, at the time their most recently completed project in Braamfontein, which he thought still captured the spirit of Local Studio as a start-up.

Their choice of photographer, David Southwood, a self-proclaimed human rights photographer, is someone whose pictures of their work made them change the way they saw and contextualised their work so that they started thinking differently about people in cities.

Urban landscapes
Urban landscapes

David recalls their first meeting in the book and quotes something he said on their drive: “I like photographing architecture, but I much prefer photographing scenes which embed the built form into the street and render the structure as a continuum of its context, if in fact they are at all connected. In fact the photos of architecture that I have done which I like the most obscure the structure almost entirely.” As it turned out, the architect and the photographer were a perfect match.

Urban landscapes
Urban landscapes

He remarked further on in this introduction: “The only way a practice can include as many street photographs as this in a monograph is if they are genuinely concerned with the street. Local Studio is obsessed with the street. The street is the immediate  material context in Johannesburg if you are building, where the urban fabric is rough and unkempt.”

Outreach Foundation Community Centre
Outreach Foundation Community Centre in Hillbrow.

Familiar with the following project, the Outreach Foundation in Hillbrow, because of the Hillbrow Theatre where Gerard Bester is involved, this is also one of the projects I want to focus on here.

Gerard explains in a piece about this complex that the theatre provides a space for inner-city children and youth. It serves the neighbourhood and after-school programmes are held. The theatre was there, but in 2009 they raised some money for a homework centre. After workshops and discussions were held with Thomas, what emerged was a building that now houses the computer centre, dance studio, boardroom and offices of the youth centre.

He explains further that though Hillbrow has negative connotations for outsiders, “I think the people that actually live in Hillbrow, have made it their own.”

Hillbrow Trauma Counselling Centre
Hillbrow Trauma Counselling Centre

Even though it is one of the city’s toughest neighbourhoods, he believes that we have to keep “engaging an exercise in imagining what Hillbrow can be, and not oppose that; to absolutely engage with the people that reside in the neighbourhood, and not gentrify it but to create meaningful, authentic change.”

Which is exactly what has been happening with the project he is engaged with – creating a safe space that is also open and accessible.

Hill Cafe
Hill Street Café

Pretty close by is (was) the Hill Street Café, a steel restaurant pavilion built as a temporary structure on the foundations of a demolished lunatic asylum in Jozi’s historical Old Fort (just above the Constitutional Court) which was designed to last 2 years but eventually stood for four.

I can remember doing an interview with Gerard there about the Hillbrow Theatre and it’s a pity that the structure, which was erected there specifically to commemorate the space where the Asylum stood, has been removed. It was a warm and embracing space with great coffee and I remember cool service.

Fullham Heights now
Fullham Heights which now houses Breezeblock Café and Whippet Cycle Company on the ground floor, Local Studio on the first floor and two residential units on the top floor.

The other building which I am familiar with is the one that also houses the brilliant Breezeblock Café in Brixton. Called Fullham Heights, Thomas notes that it is one of the first projects to demonstrate the principals and guidelines of the Johannesburg Corridors of Freedom policy. It looks to promote mixed-use development and residential densification in neighbourhoods adjacent to the recently completed BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) network.

He explains that the building is a conversion of an old corner shop, which had been a Chinese restaurant and subsequently rented by Local Studio as office space prior to its purchase for redevelopment.

Fullham Heights
The Local Studio offices, a part of Fullham Heights in Brixton.

Now the building houses the funky Café and Whippet Cycle Company on the ground floor, Local Studio on the first floor and two residential units on the top floor. The new structure contrasts with the original concrete facade and pavement colonnade, which were restored as part of the project.

These are simply two projects selected because I am familiar with them, but there is so much more to this book. One needs to see the full scope to understand the ethos. Even if the firm is bigger and reaching higher, I can hardly believe that with this kind of creative compass, their work doesn’t still remain in this kind of contemporary African city mind space.

Westbury Pedestrian Bridge and Park
Westbury Pedestrian Bridge and Park, an effort to influence the choice of architecture in the city.

And what would be even better would be to buy the book and do your own guided tours to discover a city you probably weren’t even aware exists.

 

To buy the book:

https://local-studio.myshopify.com/products/hustles-book

 

 

 

Johan Swart’s Hidden Pretoria Celebrates A Capital City With Hidden Treasures

Hidden PretoriaPictures: Alain Proust

Hidden Pretoria (published by Struik Lifestyle)

“Hidden Pretoria places the buildings of our capital city in the spotlight,” writes author Johan Swart, Lecturer and Curator Archive collections Department of Architecture, University of Pretoria.

 

 

The word Hidden in the title also suggests that much of what is showcased would not all be obvious to even Pretoria residents and for those visiting, would serve as an exciting guide to the many spectacular buildings in the city.

Even having worked in the city centre for most of my life, I was only vaguely familiar with a mosque right in the centre of the city which had through the years become hidden because of certain buildings that obscure it from the public eye.

But because of Swart’s architectural eye and non-Pretorian photographer Alain Proust’s specific and individualistic way of looking at and capturing buildings, the beauty or unusual features of even a familiar building emerge much more strongly.

Hidden Pta Page 72
A different view from the Palace of Justice eastern tower, with details of the entrance lobby roof visible in the foreground and the western tower behind. The old State Bank building is on Church Square is visible below.

“With the Hidden Pretoria project the publisher was looking to work with someone in the academic sphere. My focus area at the university is local (South African) architectural heritage which was a good fit with the project.

“ It also made sense for a Pretoria-based academic to take on this task, as a great amount of effort went into ‘location scouting’ and access arrangements for which I called in a number of favours within local architectural and conservation networks. I also have access to a number of archives and libraries that contain information about sites in Pretoria,” explained Swart.

He also had the difficult task of appeasing the highly critical academics among whom he finds himself, while ensuring that the book is accessible to a much wider audience at the same time. “I needed the book to be a responsible account of the architectural history of our city, something that could be prescribed to a student at our department, but also a book that these students would be able to lend to their family and friends as an enjoyable read.” And he certainly pulled that off.

It’s clear that he did extensive fieldwork before selecting buildings for inclusion in the book, and he says that only places that he had visited and where he saw (and felt) a deep quality of place were chosen.

Hidden Pta Page 67
Palace of Justice: The colonnaded entrance halls are flooded with natural light from leaded-glass skylights and clerestory windows.

The book serves as a reminder of what the city holds. “Architecturally, Pretoria’s buildings tell the story of a 19th Century republican outpost ignited by the politics of the British Empire, transformed through apartheid-era restructuring and evolving into a 21st century African metropolis,” writes Swart.

In the initial stages, the book posed many challenging questions. For example, which buildings are the most representative of Pretoria’s architectural legacy? What contribution can this publication make to the historical record? How can a broad audience be introduced to the city and its buildings?

His answers to these served a number of aims: Hidden Pretoria is both a momentary snapshot of spaces that might soon change or vanish, drawing attention to their incredible value and potential,  and a photographic documentation of the city, structured and written as an architectural survey. Diverse hidden spaces are exposed, he explains, and ultimately the range of buildings captures the collective spatial identity of the city.

The theme dictated that the book be curated as a journey of discovery revealing a series of surprising spaces in a manner not accessible to the majority of readers. This is enhanced by Proust’s particular eye for a picture.

He has collaborated with Struik Lifestyle for decades, so he was the obvious choice for the Hidden series of which Pretoria is the third city following Johannesburg and Cape Town.

Hidden Pta Page 14-15
Panoramic view over Church Square, the geographical and historical heart of Pretoria looking towards the north west from the roof of the Old Standard Bank building.

“But apart from that,” says Swart, “I also believe he is one of the best architectural photographers around, the style of his photographs are straightforward in terms of angles and perspective but incredibly good in terms of light, colour and focus etc.”

He was thrilled that Proust managed to get incredible quality and richness out of even the most elemental architectural moments. “He was at moments surprised with the quality of buildings and spaces in Pretoria and I believe the journey of discovery that we embarked on also enthused him to capture the best of Pretoria for a wider South African audience.”

Many of the spaces lie just beyond the surface of known facades, notes Swart. “Historical buildings such as the Palace of Justice and Old Standard Bank are well-known neoclassical edifices in full public view that hide beautifully articulated interior volumes.”

Hidden Pta Page 152-153
The auditorium of the Capitol Theatre described as one of Pretoria’s most unexpected interior spaces is enveloped in Renaissance-themed decor under an imitation sky ceiling. A parking area has replaced the ground floor seating.

Specifically to capture the intent of the book, the cover picture captures exactly that ethos. It is the most dramatic example of a hidden treasure behind a relatively nondescript facade right in the heart of the city.

The author also explains that some buildings are not only architecturally important but also worth exploring for the hidden objects. The works of artists like Alexis Preller and Walter Battiss, for example, remain locked in the abandoned TPA Building and like the mosque, some buildings are hidden because of their urban context.

For city dwellers themselves, some of the facades have disappeared simply because of familiarity and the interiors are quite breath-taking, yet we walk past them sometimes on a daily basis never having ventured inside.

Hidden Pta Page 174
The lower areas of Freedom Park with the continuity between the building and its surrounding landscape evident in this view.

One of Swart’s aims was to inspire a general awareness and appreciation of the architectural heritage of the city. All the selected buildings are of heritage value and their relevance in the present, can be measured according to a number of themes.

As an architect who works in academia himself, he argues most succinctly and with each building or site also details many facts that would be unknown to those of us who simply see an interesting or historical building – some which we might even in these past decades have turned our backs on.

He points out, for example, that the Dutch Reformed churches at Universiteitsoord and Burgerspark are of particular  architectural and historical interest because they’re illustrative of the Regionalist and Brutalist design approaches that prevailed in the 1960s. Both the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park have value as spaces of reflection and debate as they present as reference points for dialogue about identity and memory.

HP THE MARIEAMMAN TEMPLE: PRETORIA
The Mariamman Temple viewed from the Tamil Hall over the central core of the temple complex with arda mandapam to the left, and maha mandapan (pavillion) in the middle, and the gopuram (entrance portal) to the right.

Those who know and visit Marabastad for some extraordinary shopping and food or drive past on their way to the city centre, would have noticed the extraordinary Mariamman Temple, a place of gathering and an anchor point  for the identity of its faith community, says Swart, as he goes on to point out many more features of Pretoria’s unique architecture.

Some would argue about the choices, and others might miss some of their favourites, but no one could be critical about the way the city is showcased from both a public and private point of view.

Hidden Pta Page 170-172
The Voortrekker Monument is an impressive granite structure with Art Deco articulation and a variety of symbolic motifs.

I loved the few private homes chosen; the fact that the home and work space one of our best artists, Angus Taylor, is featured. Or that House Jooste (Pretorians will know it as Brasserie de Paris) is featured as a homage to Le Corbusier as well as for locals who have a taste for French cuisine and Brutalist architecture. And then there’s Ora Joubert’s Ivy Villa Studio which makes a specific architectural statement, which was also its intent. She has been critical of the mediocrity of design in too many of our suburbs and has taken great pleasure in breaking that mould.

Whichever way you want to use or look at this book – whether a resident of the city or a visitor – it has been beautifully crafted from the selection of buildings and places to show. Extraordinary photographs and informed research guide the traveller, and finally, all come together to present something which is much more than a coffee table book.

And a final word from the author: “Even as a Pretorian who knows the city rather well, I was once again surprised with the intriguing and beautiful places that are to be found in and around the city. It takes a good amount of effort to discover and explore our cities but the personal reward makes it worthwhile.

“ I have a much more comprehensive and embodied understanding of our city after completing this project. It is also remarkable once we start understanding the incredible financial, architectural and social investment that was spent in the making of these special buildings, Pretoria really does have a ‘grand’ architectural legacy to take pride in and be inspired by.

“Another surprise is how wide the spectrum is along which the condition (state of conservation) of buildings can be placed, a surprising amount of heritage buildings in the city really is in almost pristine condition, where other sites are in complete and indefensible decay, perhaps this reflects something of the schizophrenic nature of South African society in general.”

Hopefully Hidden Pretoria will highlight the neglect of some of our hidden treasures, remind citizens of their architectural riches and enlighten visitors who might think the city only offers the Union Building with the monumental Mandela statue and the Voortrekker Monument. There is that but also so much more.

Yea Pretoria!

Music and Magic at Market@theSheds

DIANE DE BEER

best of sheds 19 square (002)

Pretoria has some of the best markets in the country and one of those, Market@theShedsis probably still one of the best kept secrets in town.

Part of the reason is because it happens in the city at 012central, the trendy arts precinct in Pretoria CBD.

And importantly, first things first, there’s safe parking. Find free parking at 216 Sisulu Street which provides direct access to the market. Overflow parking is available at the State Theatre, 140m away from the main entrance at 381 Helen Joseph street.

Morayks
Morayks in concert

This coming market on Saturday is really one for music lovers. Best of the Sheds Music Festival is the grand finalé for 2019 and the emphasis is on local. Throughout the year, more than 60 talented local bands and musicians perform on stage at the monthly Market@TheSheds.

Once a year, people get the chance to see the year’s favourite bands and musicians with this action-packed Best of the Sheds Music Festival. It truly is Tshwane’s best showcase of the finest local artists and bands.

If music is your thing, this is a fantastic venue to catch the vibe. Join the festivities on Saturday (November 30) and see more than 10 live bands in action. What is described as the ultimate line-up includes The Muffinz, Brian Temba, Morayks, Pedro Barbosa, Gina Mabasa, 1520, The Tshwane School of Music, Lehlohonolo Ntsoko, Chievosky and Zebra.

What makes Best of The Sheds different from their usual market experience? It’s more than just a vibe-driven art, fashion, food and a designer show. Complimenting the music festival, there is a festive market with over 40 designer stalls stocked with colourful, locally produced products. It’s a perfect opportunity to shop the market streets and find quirky gifts while having a great time with family and friends.

Market@theSheds has always meant different things to different people. Personally it’s people watching and fantastic food for me although music is a big part of the market’s success. But if you want less noise and more kuier, it’s best to go earlier in the day rather than later, when the party really gets going.

Kudzaishe Gumbo (5)
Dancing in style at Market@theSheds Picture: Kudzaishe Gumbo

Pretoria’s hip inner-city market is where you will find delicious gourmet street food, craft beer, gin and cocktail stalls and the open-air courtyard with a jumping castle makes it fun for the whole family. But it’s also a place where those with true Tshwane style hang out – both the parents and their kids.

If you’re checking for classy street vibes or high-end individual style that seems ready to vogue, this is where you’ll find it.

Tickets can be bought on-line at Quicket. Online tickets are R120 pp and entrance at the gate will be R 150 pp. Kids under 12 come in free.

Gerrit Wassenaar
Picture: Gerrit Wassenaar

It’s time to shop, play, dance, be merry and have fun with family and friends.

Market@theSheds is the place to start the discovery of a city you think you know. It is a project of the Capital Collective, a non-profit organisation promoting rejuvenation efforts in the inner-city. And it’s working. Don’t miss out being part of this hidden jewel of the inner city. It’s a blast, every last Saturday of the month.

And this one will be happening with a music line-up of note.

 

Mathews and Associates Activates Bridge Between Javett-UP’s Art and Architecture

Javett at night
Different angles of the Javett-UP

Today, October 7, is World Architecture Day. Tshwane’s latest art centre opened on Heritage Day. Featuring a clutch of galleries as well as offering a brand-new architectural feature on the edges of the University of Pretoria’s Hatfield and South campuses, DIANE DE BEER gets the lowdown from architect Pieter Mathews whose firm Mathews and Associates designed the Javett Art Centre (Javett-UP):

 

It’s been a long haul for Mathews and Associates with the first concept design penned in 2012, but finally the time has come for the magnificent building and the art to be revealed and to determine that their initial goal to create a space that will activate the connection between art and architecture has been achieved. Time will tell but everything seems to point in that direction.

For lead architect Pieter Mathews (helped by project architect Liam Purnell and assisted by project dedicated architects Carla Spies and Jannes Hattingh) the specific site (one of three options) was selected because of its proximity to the Boukunde Building and the Visual Arts Building which flank the Art Centre. “They should all be in conversation,” he says, which is what influenced certain aspects of the design and the materials used.

Javett art
The building seen through the Eduardo Villa artwork.

It also contributes to the easy nestling of what is an enormous group of structures into the established landscape.

Mathews describes the style as Neo Brutalism. “Brutalism is part of the architecture history of South Africa (and worldwide) and was especially popular in the 60s and early 70s. What it means is to use the material in an honest way. Concrete which has a soul of its own is simply cast and left like that. Aesthetics are determined by the building method and the way the materials are used in its most brutal form.”

American architect Louis Isadore Kahn, known as the world leader in brutalism, most famously captured the concept with the following quote: “Even a brick wants to be something.”

javett-UP

In that spirit Mathews describes the abstract and brutal “mountain” of concrete (created by a local concrete shuttering firm) and representing the Mapungubwe Gallery – which is home to the world-famous Mapungubwe Gold Collection with the golden rhino – as honouring the honesty of the construction methods of brutalism with the natural elements of concrete coming alive as it will show signs of ageing throughout its life. Natural light casts patterns changing throughout the day. It’s the standout feature of the centre.

Perhaps one of brutalism’s strongest features is what captured his imagination specifically when designing the Javett-UP. “Buildings appear as if they have been there forever,” he explains, which is important in especially this university set-up.

Linked to the Mapungubwe Gallery by Museum Square (with a restaurant to the side and an outside exhibition space) are a selection of public galleries (nine in total, together with the two student galleries below Art Square). The public art galleries will display the best from the collections of the Javett Foundation (lead donor on the project) and the University of Pretoria, as well as various temporary exhibitions with arguably a more contemporary slant.

The Centre also includes a 117-seat auditorium, administrative offices, storage, art conservation and quarantine areas.

Javett full view
Another view of Javett-UP

 

The Javett-UP was designed to embrace both the space and the surrounding buildings, and while it might achieve iconic status, it shouldn’t stand in isolation. He was also intent on linking the Art Centre with the campus from every possible angle which makes access easy from different vantage points. This was a Centre that had to function for both public and educational purposes.

The gallery space extends across Lynnwood Road via a bridge (Bridge Gallery) which brings together the Hatfield and South Campus. As another outstanding feature, the most visually accessible, it has been turned into an eye-catching attribute wrapped in lightweight concrete panels that reaches across the exterior and interior based on the much-loved “shweshwe” fabric. It displays different patterns and designs depending on the time of day as shadow and light come into play, turning it into a spectacular showcase when it is lit at night.

For the architect it seems as if a bank of fairy lights is sparkling in the middle of the road through this dashing design which symbolises strong, embracing South African connections across a wide spectrum.

Javett art centre
An outside view of the bridge

If you haven’t noticed the new building yet, it’s fast becoming a landmark as you travel up and down Lynnwood Road. The bridge spills out onto University Square with the student galleries positioned below and then extends into the historic Tukkie Laan linking the Art Centre with the main campus. The squares are specifically placed to gather people. “People attract people,” says Mathews with the one easily accessible to the public and the other gathering the students from the campus.

Mathews wanted a building with no bling or shine, something he has achieved with his design and building materials.

They had to find a method of linking the various elements like the bridge patterned panels, the faceted concrete shell structure of the Mapungubwe “mountain”, galvanised steel pergolas which again repeats the “shweshwe” design and all the other building elements. Colour was the most obvious solution. As the structure is dominated by the hue of  concrete – a natural light grey emerged as the leitmotif. When they wanted to separate various elements, they used charcoal as the shadow colour.

Mathews is the instigator of Cool Capitol, the world’s first uncurated, DIY guerrilla biennale that is a place for citizens of the Capital City to collectively contemplate and express their love for their city – and how to improve it. He and his Cool Capital team also hosted and designed the 2017 South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

javett patterns again
An inside view.

 

He has declared himself an ambassador for the visual environment and it is this blend of art and architecture, part of his DNA, which made him and his team, the perfect match for the Javett Art Centre – UP.

Even though they had to survive many hills and valleys with the building of this monumental project, he declared from the start: “I am very confident in the collective brain at work here.”

Now we’re simply waiting for the art to come alive on this spectacular stage.

 

 

 

  • Go to https://javettup.art for more information. Open times are daily from 10am to 5pm and apart from the exquisite building also shows collections of  spectacular African art.

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.

up water transformer
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.

2016-01-04 10.56.06
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.

IMG-20190730-WA0028
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.

IMG-20190730-WA0027
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

Javett - UP - View 01~1

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.

Javett Art Centre at UP (Liam Purnell) (1)
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.”

RochaCarrillo_JuzgadosPatzcuaro01_photo Rafael Gamo
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.

RochaCarrillo_JuzgadosPatzcuaro02_photo Rafael Gamo
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.

HKamte_Wooden Tower Lagos2

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.