Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library by Adjaye Associates

thabo mbeki presidential library

WORDS Cheri Morris IMAGES AND VIDEO courtesy of Adjaye Associates

Designed by Adjaye Associates, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library in Riviera, Johannesburg is a space that aims to preserve and distribute African knowledge and history.

The architecture is inspired by granary structures, which traditionally allow for the systematisation of feeding, planting and harvesting cycles. According to Adjaye Associates, the design concept is “a metaphor for knowledge-based nourishment”.

Not only will the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library exist to preserve and distribute African history and intellect, but also to make visible the knowledge of ancient and contemporary Africa through both form and programme.

“The architecture of the Library taps into the collective memory of the continent through the establishment of a new historical centre for African consciousness in which knowledge, education and sustenance are nurtured in the representation and intelligence of the continent,” says Sir David Adjaye OBE, Founder and Principal at Adjaye Associates.

The 5 400m² multifunctional space will host a museum, temporary exhibition space, research centre, auditorium, women’s empowerment centre, reading room, digital experience space and an archive centre.

The granary stores guided the overall building concept, with Adjaye Associates using architecture as a tool to reimagine storage and sustenance. The centre is made up of eight cylindrical forms, each of which feature domes with apertures that let light in, create a particular ambience for each of the spaces within.

Inside, the chambers are connected by a horizontal “indoor den” that runs the entire length of the building. Apart from making use of rooftop solar panels and geothermal heating, the project also made use of locally sourced compressed mud and timber, and local stone terrazzo flooring, which sees the overall carbon footprint of the building reduced.

Construction on the project is set to begin during the course of 2021. MMA Design Studio will be the local architecture firm working on the project.

See more projects by Adjaye Associates here and read VISI’s interview with Sir David Adjaye, here.