!Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre

WORDS Paris Brummer IMAGES courtesy of KLG Architects

The !Khwa ttu San Culture and Education Centre, located about an hour’s drive north of Cape Town along the West Coast Road, recently opened a new Heritage Centre.

Opened on Heritage Day, 24 September 2018, the Heritage Centre at !Khwa ttu is an exciting new museum that tells the story of the San people “in their own words”. The building is called The Way of The San.

Some of the themes explored in the various exhibition spaces are human origins, colonial encounters, hunting and gathering, storytelling, star lore, traditional remedies and play. This is done through rock art, artefacts, a recording of ambient sounds of nature, and a life-size video installation depicting various aspects of San life.

Designed by KLG Architects, the building has a glass facade and a curved roof, and an organic oval shape, a reference to traditional nomadic San shelters and the role of the ostrich egg in San culture.

The building is located on previously farmed land. The design follows the contours of the site, and a retaining wall incorporates a granite ridge as part of the museum interior. Granite boulders offer “wall space” against which to project rock art.

The concrete floor was cast and shaped around pre-existing site features using flexible formwork. A granite aggregate from a local quarry was added to the concrete mix and the surface was ground down to a finely textured finish that delicately exposes the aggregate. Sections of the floor emulate the rich red sand of the Kalahari.

KLG Architects has succeeded in its goal to sensitively integrate this impressive building in its surroundings. The museum is a reminder that architecture can be used as a device to tell human stories. The result is a museum experience that not only sensitively handles history and heritage, but also visually celebrates the legacy of the San.

For more information, visit khwattu.org.