Undergraduate Science Stadium


The Science Stadium Project forms the focal point of redeveloping the former Skeen Stadium on West campus of the University of the Witwatersrand. This will form a new Precinct that will be a new hub on the West Campus in line with the University’s Urban Design Framework proposed by Ludwig Hansen Architects & Urban Designers.

This project had its genesis in the question put to Savage + Dodd Architects whether the existing Skeen Stadium could be converted to lecture theatres. A quick geometrical study proved that it was indeed feasible. In 2009 the University approached Savage + Dodd Architects to work in collaboration with Urban Solutions to design an Undergraduate Science Centre incorporating the old stadium structure.

The Stadium formed part of the original Rand Showground infrastructure inherited by the University. This was reconfigured into a state of the art Facility comprising five Auditoria and seventeen Tutorial Rooms spread over two levels. Adjacent this a new building comprising undergraduate laboratories for Chemistry, Physics and Biology was added linked to the auditoria through a ‘wedge’ link building forming the vertical circulation knuckle between these two parts. The repurposing of the stadium into new teaching facilities rather than demolishing existing under under-utilized infrastructure was seen as a cost effective and environmentally responsible solution.

The design generators for the building were to respect the geometric heritage of the old Skeen stadium and running track and to create a teaching hub located on the north – south axis of the West Campus. The laboratory building sits on a north-south orientation with a large scaled colonnade onto the public space on the north elevation feeding into the new foyer of the auditoria building. It was imperative to acknowledge the creation of a new public open space and the introduction of the colonnade is seen as a secondary element to define the edge of this space.

The laboratory building which caters for up to 400 students in laboratories, called for large clear span spaces with easy movement of large numbers of students through the facilities. The concept was to make science accessible. The Laboratories are transparent, allowing a visual connection to the interiors.

The building is designed with robust finishes and with clear environmental principles in mind. These were incorporated from the inception of the project and the design team worked closely with Paul Carew of PJ Carew Consulting to determine the environmental performance of the building. Specific attention was paid to the introduction and control of natural lighting in the laboratories and auditoria balanced against artificial lighting requirements, environmental controls and the optimization of artificial ventilation and energy efficiency. The laboratories are one of the first buildings in South Africa to use a thermally active slab (TAB) system to passively heat and cool the spaces.


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