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Liliesleaf Legacy Project
Rivonia, Johannesburg, Gauteng


Client:Liliesleaf Trust

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26°02'35.63" S 28°03'14.94" E
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The Goldreich family lived at Liliesleaf between December 1961 and 11 July 1963. It was used by the ANC to hold key debates on political and military policy and strategy. It was here that the most prominent leaders of South Africa's struggle against Apartheid sought shelter, and attended meetings. Some of these included Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Bram Fischer, Joe Slovo, Ruth First, Raymond Mhaba, Rusty BERNSTEIN, Bob Hepple, Harold Wolpe, and Denis Goldberg. Many of these individuals were discovered in the police's raid on Liliesleaf farm, and tried in the subsequent Rivonia Treason Trial. They were to later spend over 25 years in prison.

At the Rivonia Trialist Reunion held at Liliesleaf in December 2001 President Thabo Mbeki announced the establishment of the Liliesleaf Trust. The Trust aims to ensure that the unique heritage, history and legacy of Liliesleaf Farm is preserved for future generations.

(Liliesleaf website)

Award of Merit Citation

Liliesleaf Farm was the underground headquarters of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto we Sizwe. A raid by the apartheid government police in 1963 led to the imprisonment for life of the 11 Rivonia Trialists, including Nelson Mandela. The architectural project was to develop the site into an experiential place where visitors and scholars could engage with and reflect on the memories and events of the past.

Two contemporary buildings, the Resource Centre and the Liberation Centre, have been located on the periphery of the historic site. There have also been extensive architectural intervention and restoration processes in respect of the original buildings. The panel commends the process whereby the architects were fully involved with the 'unearthing' of the story, displaying a sensitivity to history, context and people's stories. Collaboration between the architects, archaeologists and the people who occupied Liliesleaf produced a unique decision-making process. The result is a celebration of heritage, meeting and exhibition spaces, coupled with restaurant facilities in an environment that would make for pleasant school or family visits. The wall of the Visitors’ Centre identifies the perimeter of the property without intruding unduly on the suburban setting. An accessible site with ramps makes for a strong visual impact on entry. Exhibits are minimal. Members of the panel felt that the use of original brick walls juxtaposed with off-shutter concrete walls in the historical structures was particularly powerful.

The orientation of the new buildings suggested no attempt at passive design. There was a query whether the dramatic view on entering the site made too strong a visual impact, detracting from the apparent ordinariness of a typical 'white' residence of the time. Some members of the panel felt that the scale of the Resource Centre was too dominant and that it could have been integrated into the site in a more sensitive manner. In their view, too, the development would have been enriched by greater variety in terms of landscaping. Nevertheless, the gentle, minimalist interventions with the historic fabric, coupled with the contemplative setting, provide a distinctive and dignified commemoration of an historic site, honouring both the building in which the Raid took place and the people in it who fought for our new democratic order. In its overall, the project succeeds in the complex task of recuperating and making accessible a locality deeply entrenched in our history, giving it ongoing function and significance for future generations. It deserves a merit award.

All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.

Writings about this entry

South African Institute of Architects. 2010. Awards : South African Institute of Architects. Awards for Excellence, Awards of Merit, Regional Awards for Architecture 2009/2010. Cape Town: Picasso for SAIA. pg 40-41, 86