MASHABANE ROSE ASSOCIATES – architects & urban designers | NATION BUILDING PROJECTS (APARTHEID MUSEUM)

NATION BUILDING PROJECTS (APARTHEID MUSEUM)

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FORMED IN 1995, MASHABANE ROSE ASSOCIATES, ARCHITECTS AND URBAN DESIGNERS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN INVOLVED IN PROJECTS IN THE HERITAGE SECTOR. EARLY IN OUR PRACTICE, WE WERE COMMISSIONED TO DO HERITAGE REPORTS ON SITES IN AND AROUND SOWETO THAT ENCOMPASSED PERSONALITIES AND EVENTS THAT FORMED PART OF THE LIBERATION STRUGGLE. SOME OF THESE REPORTS FORMED THE BASIS FOR PROJECTS THAT WE HAD TO MOTIVATE FUNDS FOR TO BECOME REAL PROJECTS. EVENTUALLY THEY WENT AHEAD, BUT IT OFTEN TOOK A FEW YEARS AND SEVERAL PRESENTATIONS TO MOVE FORWARD.

DRIVEN BY A BELIEF THAT THESE PROJECTS WOULD IMPACT POSITIVELY ON OUR DIVIDED SOCIETY AND ASSIST PEOPLE EXPOSED TO HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, WE FELT IN SOME WAY WE WERE ENGAGING IN THE WIDER PROCESS OF HEALING AND RECONCILIATION.

WHEN WE COMPLETED AN EXHIBITION IN CATO MANOR, THE CLEANING STAFF HIRED TO TIDY UP AFTERWARDS STOPPED WORK AND WATCHED THE VIDEOS AND LATER WEPT WHEN THEY SAW THAT THE HISTORY BEING PRESENTED WAS THEIRS – SPECIFICALLY, THE RACE RIOTS AND BEER-HALL RIOTS THAT OCCURRED IN 1949 AND 1959 RESPECTIVELY. THIS SEEMED TO MAKE IT WORTHWHILE: WE WERE TELLING THEIR STORY AND PLACING THESE STORIES FIRMLY IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. WE HAD A SIMILAR REACTION WHEN A GROUP OF GRANDMOTHERS ARRIVED AT A HECTOR PIETERSON MUSEUM COMMUNITY MEETING WITH NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS THEY HAD KEPT FOR ALMOST 25 YEARS – THEY ATTENDED THE MEETING TO MAKE SURE THE PROJECT WAS TELLING THE STORY OF THE SCHOOL CHILDREN AND UPRISING. AT THE TIME, THERE WAS A COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT PROPOSED BY SOWETO BUSINESS GROUPS COMPRISING A HOTEL AND SHOPS TRYING TO WIN SUPPORT FROM THE COMMUNITY. THESE COMMUNITY MEETINGS AND THE COMMITMENT OF THE PARTICIPANTS SHAPED THE OUTCOME OF THE HECTOR PIETERSON MUSEUM AND CONTINUE TO REMIND US OF THE VALUE OF THIS WORK.

SUBSTANTIAL RESEARCH LIES BEHIND THESE PROJECTS. HISTORICAL, SOCIAL AND SPATIAL LANDSCAPES WERE UNPACKED TO BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE PARTICULAR MOMENT IN HISTORY BEING COMMEMORATED. MULTI-DISCIPLINARY TEAMS OF HISTORIANS, FILM-MAKERS, PICTURE RESEARCHERS, ARCHITECTS AND CURATORS WERE ASSEMBLED. IT WAS BETTER TO HAVE A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF THE EVENT – THIS UNDERSTANDING OFTEN GAVE THE PROJECT STRONGER MEANING IN ITS CONTEXT.

AS ARCHITECTS, THE CONTEXT IN WHICH WE BUILD MATTERS MORE THAN JUST THE ARCHITECTURAL CONTEXT – THERE EXISTS A NARRATIVE TO REINFORCE IN THESE UNIQUE HISTORIC SETTINGS. THIS SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE IS AT THE CENTRE OF OUR CONCERNS WHEN CONSIDERING HOW TO ACT AS ARCHITECTS ON THE DESIGN OF THE INTERIOR AND EXTERIOR, AND HOW WE ENGAGE WITH THE URBAN PRECINCT, WITH ALL ITS DYNAMICS. POWERFUL VISUAL FORMS OF HISTORY ARE REQUIRED WHERE THESE NARRATIVES HAVE BEEN PREVIOUSLY OVERLOOKED IN FAVOUR OF THE ENGLISH AND AFRIKAANS HISTORIES OF COLONIALISM AND INDUSTRIALISATION.

PHIL MASHABANE HAS SERVED ON SEVERAL PUBLIC BODIES, INCLUDING THE NATIONAL MONUMENTS COUNCIL (NMC) AND THE SOUTH AFRICAN HERITAGE RESOURCE AGENCY (SAHRA). MORE RECENTLY, HE SERVED A TERM AS THE PRESIDENT OF SACAP. HIS WORK AND TIME SPENT IN THESE SECTORS HAS CONTRIBUTED TO OUR PRACTICE’S SUBSTANTIVE UNDERSTANDING OF THE VALUE OF HISTORY AND MEMORIALISATION.

COMPETITIONS

ANOTHER UNIQUE ASPECT OF OUR WORK OVER THE PAST 18 YEARS IS OUR PASSION FOR ENTERING COMPETITIONS. WE HAVE ENTERED ALL OF THE LARGE-SCALE COMPETITIONS IN SOUTH AFRICA AND MANY INTERNATIONAL COMPETITIONS. MUCH OF OUR BUILT WORK HAS COME OUT OF A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF THESE WINNING ENTRIES. NOT ALL OF THE PROJECTS WE WON, HOWEVER, PROGRESSED TO THE NEXT STAGE, BUT THIS DOES SEEM TO HAPPEN IN A POLITICALLY-CHARGED DECISION-MAKING ENVIRONMENT.

SOME OF OUR MORE SCULPTURAL WORK HAS BEEN DEVELOPED IN COMPETITIONS AND HAS TAUGHT US A LOT ABOUT THE MAKING OF FORM AND THE GENERATION OF A CONCEPTUAL ARCHITECTURAL IDEA THAT IS NEW AND INTERESTING. THERE IS NO DOUBT THE COMPETITIONS IMPACTED ON OUR LATER BUILT WORK. WE SEE THIS IN PROJECTS LIKE THE CANADIAN MUSEUM FOR HUMAN RIGHTS FOR WHICH WE WERE SHORTLISTED AS ONE OF EIGHT, HAVING CONCEPTUAL SIMILARITIES WITH THE FREEDOM PARK MUSEUM PROJECT AND THE GOLDEN GATE PROJECT.

WE ALWAYS HAVE VERY TALENTED YOUNG ARCHITECTS WORKING WITH US TO HELP MAKE SOME OF THESE WORKS – THEY ARE PASSIONATE AND IMMENSELY HARD-WORKING. DAYS AND NIGHTS ARE GIVEN UP FOR THE MAKING OF A SIGNIFICANT PIECE OF ARCHITECTURE WHICH MAY ONLY REMAIN IN DRAWINGS AND MODELS, BUT IT ALWAYS SEEMS WORTH IT AS WE ARE ORIGINATING SOMETHING NEW. FORTUNATELY, WE HAVE OFTEN BEEN SHORTLISTED FOR OUR ENTRIES AND HAVE BEEN ABLE TO RECOVER SOME OF THE ENORMOUS COSTS OF HANDMADE WOODEN MODELS AND BEAUTIFUL DRAWINGS.

OUR APPROACH TO COMPETITIONS HAS BEEN TO WORK ON A NARRATIVE IDEA OR CONSTRUCT THAT IS SUGGESTED BY THE BRIEF AND TO FIND SPATIAL CONCEPTS THAT REINFORCE THIS. HAND SKETCHES ARE MADE TO CAPTURE THESE IDEAS AS THEY EVOLVE. WE HAVE ALSO MADE SOME VERY BEAUTIFUL PLANS AND SITE-PLAN DRAWINGS TO CAPTURE THE SPIRIT OF THE IDEA AS BEST WE COULD.

WE MAKE USE OF HANDMADE MODELS TO EXPLORE SOME OF THE IDEAS AND FIND THIS MEDIUM POWERFUL EVEN IF THE IDEAS MORPH OR ARE ABANDONED – THEY ARE A NECESSARY PART OF THE PROCESS. A CONVERSATION IN THE OFFICE DEVELOPS AROUND THE SCHEME WHICH IS CONSTANTLY UPDATED AS WE THINK THROUGH THE IDEA – WE KEEP TALKING ABOUT IT AS IT HAS A WAY OF EVOLVING INTO A CLEARER NARRATIVE WITH A SINGLE EXPRESSED IDEA. WORD PICTURES ARE REMARKABLY POWERFUL FOR THE VISUALLY AND SPATIALLY LITERATE, ESPECIALLY AMONG A GROUP OF PASSIONATE AND DYNAMIC DESIGNERS.

 THE NATION-BUILDING-PROJECTS

THIS REFERS TO THE GROUP OF PROJECTS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO TRANSITIONAL JUSTICE, NATIONAL HEALING AND RECONCILIATION, AND LEAD TO A DEEPER UNDERSTANDING OF OUR COMPLEX HISTORY.

1 HECTOR PIETERSON MUSEUM, SOWETO

 2 APARTHEID MUSEUM, GAUTENG

3 MANDELA HOUSE, SOWETO

4 LILIESLEAF LIBERATION CENTRE, RIVONIA

5 FREEDOM PARK, PRETORIA

6 MANDELA CELL, NIROX

7 MANDELA CAPTURE SITE, HOWICK

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

FREEDOM SQUARE, KLIPTOWN: LINDSAY BREMNER

APARTHEID MUSEUM: GAPP, BANNIE BRITZ, SIDNEY ABRAMOWITCH

FREEDOM PARK: GAPP & MMA

MANDELA CAPTURE SITE SCULPTURE: MARCO CIANFANELLI, CHRISTOPHER TILL

EXHIBITION DEVELOPMENT: CHRISTOPHER TILL

3D MODELLING: PETER VERNARCIK, GARETH JANKELOW

PHOTOGRAPHY: DAVID GOLDBLATT, CAROLINE SUZMAN, LEON KRIGE, JOHN HODGEKISS, TRISTAN MCLAREN, PETER HASSALL, CRAIG MCCLENAGHAN

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