Greater Mapungubwe TFCA

Mapungubwe Interpretive Center named World Building of the Year

A University of Cambridge lecturer is among a team of designers, architects and engineers that have won three awards for their contributions to a new eco-friendly visitor center in South Africa.

The Mapungubwe National Park Interpretive Center has been named World Building of the Year, topped the Culture category at The World Architecture Festival and has won The Institution of Structural Engineer’s David Aslop Sustainability Award.

Michael Ramage, of the Department of Architecture, University of Cambridge, Prof. John Ochsendorf (King’ 1998) of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Peter Rich Architects, Johannesburg and Henry Fagan and Partners, consulting structural and civil engineers all contributed to the completion of this innovative and unique building.

The Mapungubwe National Park was the center of the first powerful kingdom in Southern Africa, and the new Interpretive Center has been built for South African National Parks.

The landscape retains evidence of the lives, values and belief systems of those who have inhabited it; the interactions between them, others and with the environment.

Designed as an extension of the environment, the stone clad vaults and domed roofs have been constructed using a 600 year old tile- vaulting technique which has provided innovative employment and training opportunities for people from local communities.

The structural vaults are built of thin shell unreinforced masonry created on site from cement-stabilized soil tiles.

Tile vaulting is a traditional building method that has been revived for contemporary architecture on this project.

The building is clad with locally quarried stone which adds a stabilizing load to the vaults and integrates it into its surroundings.

The 300,000 tiles needed were made by two dozen local people over a year and construction skills have been transferred to the nearby community for the future.
The complex measures 1,500m² and its use of local materials has helped achieve 90% reductions in energy use in the construction of a building of this proportion.

Michael Ramage said of the awards: “We’re thrilled to be recognized for our approach to structural design, in which form, forces and material selection contribute to lowering a building’s ecological footprint”.

The World Architecture Festival simultaneously celebrates great architecture and an intellectual challenge to a major world profession.

This year’s festival took place in Barcelona from the 4-9 of November.

The Structural Award for Sustainability is the industry’s most prestigious award which recognizes excellence in structural design, engineering, and where outstanding commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment has been demonstrated.

Since 1968 the Structural Awards have recognized and rewarded the work of the world’s most talented structural designers, their indispensable contribution to the built environment and showcase projects that lead the industry’s development.
This year’s awards took place on Friday 9 October 2009 at the Natural History Museum in London.


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