MASHABANE ROSE ASSOCIATES – architects & urban designers | ORIGINS CENTRE, WITS

ORIGINS CENTRE, WITS

ORIGINS CENTRE AND SOUTH AFRICAN ROCK ART RESEARCH INSTITUTE

UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND, JHB

Folding surfaces on the south
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LOCATED IN TWO 1930’S BUILDINGS FORMERLY KNOWN AS ‘THE WEDGE’ ON THE CORNER OF ENOCH SONTONGA ROAD AND THE M1 HIGHWAY, ON WITS CAMPUS, THE ORIGINS CENTRE EXPLORES SOUTHERN AFRICAN ROCK ART HERITAGE AND THE ORIGINS OF MODERN MAN.

VISITORS ARRIVE AT THE NORTH BUILDING THROUGH A DESERT-LIKE LANDSCAPE PLANTED WITH MEDICINAL PLANTS SYNONYMOUS WITH ANCIENT KHOI-SAN KNOWLEDGE. THE NORTH FACING CAFETERIA AT THE ENTRANCE ALLOWS VIEWS OVER THIS KALAHARI LANDSCAPE TO THE DISTANT MAGALIESBURG MOUNTAINS. VISITORS MOVE THROUGH THE CENTRAL COURTYARD AND INTO THE SOUTH (MUSEUM) BUILDING WHERE THE MAIN BODY OF THE NARRATIVE UNFOLDS.

THE TWO, 3-STORY BUILDINGS ARE SEPARATED BY A LUSH, 7M WIDE KLOOF-LIKE COURTYARD AND LINKED WITH A STEEL BRIDGE ON FIRST FLOOR, WHERE THE HEAD OFFICE FOR THE ROCK ART INSTITUTE OF SOUTH AFRICA IS ACCOMMODATED.  THE COURTYARD IS SLICED BY SEVERAL CONCRETE PATHWAYS THAT LINK THE VARIOUS ACTIVITIES BETWEEN THE TWO BUILDINGS.

WINDOWS IN THE DARK MONOCHROMATIC FORM OF THE BUILDINGS, (ESPECIALLY WHEN SEEN FROM THE SOUTH) ARE DELIBERATELY ABSENT, IN AN EFFORT TO IMPLY A HEAVINESS TO THE ARCHITECTURE. THE BUILDINGS SIT FIRMLY ON THE WATERSHED OF THE RIDGE AND THE ROCKLIKE QUALITY IS REINFORCED BY THE HIGHVELD GRASS-PLANTED LANDSCAPING ON THE SOUTH AND THE COMB-LIKE FENCE.

THE ARCHITECTURE IS STARK AND SILENT. THICK WALLS EXPERIENCED AT ENTRANCE THRESHOLDS RE-ENFORCE A SENSE OF THE ANCIENT AND CAVE-LIKE INTERIORS ARE CREATED WITH CONSTANTLY SHIFTING VOLUMES – CONSTRICTING AND RELEASING VISITORS AS THEY MEANDER THROUGH THE MUSEUM. THE INDUSTRIAL QUALITY OF THE WEDGE HAS BEEN REDEFINED AS A CULTURAL CONTAINER FOR THE OBJECTS THAT AID THE NARRATIVE AND THE MINIMAL TREATMENT OF THE INTERIOR SURFACES ENSURES THAT THE ARCHITECTURE NEVER DETRACTS FROM THE FASCINATING NARRATIVE.

LOCATED ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF THE SOUTH BUILDING, THE RARI OFFICES FORM AN INTEGRAL PART OF THE COMPLEX’S BRAIN AND SEVERAL VISUAL LINKS ARE ESTABLISHED BETWEEN VISITORS TO THE MUSEUM AND RARI STAFF. THE FIRST FLOOR GALLERY IS USED AS BOTH AN ART GALLERY AND A LECTURE SPACE AND ACTS AS THE INTERSECTION BETWEEN THE TWO.

IN ADDITION TO UNIVERSITY OFFICES, THE NORTH BUILDING ALSO HOUSES AN AUDITORIUM AND TEACHING ROOMS FOR RARI AND AN EDUCATION FACILITY, WHICH IS LINKED TO THE MUSEUM’S INTERACTIVE MATERIAL AND IS USED AS A STARTING POINT FOR CHILDREN’S GROUPS VISITING THE COMPLEX.

THE NARRATIVE EXPERIENCE IS A RICH FEAST OF AUDIO VISUAL MATERIAL, SELECTED ARTIFACTS, INTERACTIVE TOUCH SCREENS AND

LARGE SCALE CONTEMPORARY ARTWORKS. TEXT IS KEPT TO A MINIMUM AND IS RATHER USED AS A SPRINGBOARD FROM WHICH VISITORS CAN EXPLORE FURTHER. IN THIS WAY THE INFORMATION.

A NEW STRUCTURE IS PLANNED FOR THE HOUSING OF A LARGE ENGRAVED ROCK COLLECTION, CLICK HERE TO SEE MORE…

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