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Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre
Musina district, Limpopo


Type:Public Buildings

The Mapungubwe National Park celebrates the site of an ancient trading civilization in the context of a natural setting. The complex landscape was both the inspiration for the design and the source of the materials for the construction of the new Interpretation Centre, resulting in a composition of structures that are authentically rooted to their location. The building is visually contained by two hollow cairns that evoke route-markers found in Southern African cultures. Timbrel vaulting is used to construct billowing forms that expose the arched edges of their thin shells, an analogy of the archaeological revelation of past cultures.

The project's agenda extends beyond the presentation of the area’s history to awaken an understanding of the vulnerability of the local ecology. These objectives are manifested in the construction process of the Centre in which unemployed local people were trained in the manufacture of stabilized earth tiles and in building the vaulting.


• Holcim Award for Sustainable Construction, Acknowledgement Prize, 2008, Africa / Middle East

• Short listed for David Alsop Sustainability Award, Institute of Structural Engineers – Structural Awards 2009

• Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre was announced as the winner of the World Building of the Year award at the World Architecture Festival held in Barcelona in November 2009

Select Bibliography

Cooke, J. (ed.) Mandelas Yard and Mapungungwe Interpretation Centre, Architecture South Africa (Cape Town), July/August. 2009; 22 – 31

Nancy Stauffer, MITIE, ‘Innovative Buildings, Prudent use of Energy and Materials’, MIT Energy Initiative, Energy Futures, Spring 2009

‘Ochesndorf awarded Macarthur ‘Genius’ grant’, Plan 72, News Digest of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning, Winter, 2008.

[Source: Peter Rich Architects]

Link for Mapungubwe National Park: