African Design Magazine April 2016 - Page 31

African project Africa Centre in Architecture from the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales, UK. What was the brief you received? The Africa Centre is a multi-disciplinary research facility working with population health issues in rural Northern KwaZulu-Natal. When we completed their new 2 700m2 field office in 2002 the building was considered ground-breaking in many ways and especially for its acknowledgement of local context; extensive use of skills and materials drawn from the region; and participatory approach to the design and construction processes. In 2004 it won an Award of Excellence from the South African Institute of Architects (see images of the building in 2002 HERE). After an absence of 12 years we were appointed by the new director of the Africa Centre in 2014 to revisit the project. Our brief from him was to provide additional accommodation and to give the buildings a substantial makeover aligning them with his new vision for the Centre and its position in a 21st century global research community. During our absence the Centre had expanded its operations to employ a permanent staff of 400 people plus a regular influx of visiting scientists from abroad. The buildings and their infrastructure had been worked hard over this period and yet received little maintenance, so the entire complex was in need of some serious attention. It needed to meet new international standards for a research facility and for the building