Michael Ramage, John Ochsendorf, Peter Rich, James K. Bellamy, Philippe Block
The Mapungubwe Interpretive Centre in South Africa uses novel design and construction techniques to allow local materials and labour to be used in production. The project is developed for labour-intensive construction to enable poverty relief and skills transfer into the surrounding area. Form-finding based on equilibrium thrust line analysis allows the design of thin unreinforced masonry shells that act in pure compression. Digital models let us translate advanced geometry into simple guides for construction. Traditional tile vaulting, using locally- made, pressed soil-cement tiles, allows the complex shapes to be built by newly trained workers without extensive formwork. A hands-on programme of design and construction suggests a new way to jointly manage architecture and development programs. This merging of novel structural geometry with traditional materials and craft has resulted in a new interpretation centre for a trans-frontier national park in South Africa.