Sol Plaatje University
Sol Plaatje University showcases the competition work for a new university in the Northern Cape. The design for a new University in the Northern Cape was undertaken as a two stage design competition open to architects registered in South Africa. The winners of the competition were awarded the commission for various components of the new campus located in Kimberley in the Northern Cape.
The campus is located in the heart of Kimberley and the development of an urban campus integrated into the fabric of the town is seen as key to the urban regeneration of Kimberley. Key to the design of the spaces within the various buildings is the concept of a Precinct that functions 24/7, providing living | working | social | teaching & support spaces for the university community. The first phase of the competition set out to explore a series of questions such as; What makes an architecture specific to its place ? What is the nature of the urban fabric of Kimberley and how could this influence the nature of the proposed university ? What are the typologies that would encourage connectivity and social learning that are driving new modalities of teaching and learning. We chose to explore these ideas through a narrative attached to the development of the design that attached voices and people to the kinds of spaces that we imagined. We thought that the architectural language of the new university should be driven through a contemporary response to an environmentally appropriate architecture, which places the buildings in the landscape of the city. It should be low key and modest with certain iconic highpoints that identify the university as a special place. These iconic moments are highlighted against the background of an urban field. This is the concept of balancing ‘background’ and ‘foreground’ buildings. These iconic moments are those that become ingrained in the memory of the city and give its users and inhabitants a sense of belonging and ownership. The public spaces of the university may become a meeting point for friends, a place to skateboard, focal points where iconic buildings are used as backdrops for wedding photos and where Graduation photos that adorn offices walls and mantelpieces are taken. The ‘space’ of student life is acted out in a variety of situations; the arrival space where you wait for the bus, lying on the lawn under a tree, sitting in a courtyard or on the steps of a building to the interaction of buildings across a public space. At the heart of the student experience are new university building types that encourage sharing of resources and the uniting of disciplines in vibrant cross – fertilizing containers. These typologies which contain a mix of uses and integrate both formal and informal social spaces within them are integral to the concept of multi functional Precincts. They also contribute to the additive nature of the precinct which grows over time. Imagine a campus populated with spaces that create a culture of learning 24/7. The rise of a generation who embrace social media and connectivity means that learning spaces no longer have to function as mono functional spaces with limited usage after lecture hours. They have to function as environments that support collaboration with flexibility to restructure spaces depending on coursework needs. This allows new teaching models that are not constrained by the physical structure of space. The commission for Phase 1 of Sol Plaatjes University has been developed in relation to a series of land parcels each with a different brief and a different team of architects that ultimately will form a whole. This phase takes the competition work and translates the key concepts into the actual requirements of the building brief. The first phase of Sol Plaatje University will be ready for occupation in January 2016.