In 2014 we won a bid by the City of Cape Town Arts & Culture department to rejuvenate the planning of the Guga S’Thebe cultural centre located in Langa; Cape Town.
The centre lends support to the skills development of local communities, such as small business planning, accounting and printing services, artist craft studios and workshops. The centre is also a meeting space and a popular destination for tourists. At the time, it was estimated that around 1000 tourists visit the centre every month.
The existing design for the centre, created a fragmented geometry that radiates outward from its centre. While architecturally beautiful, the spatial planning of the centre was not able to sufficiently address and keep up with the changing needs of the community and required a design intervention to make it function sustainably in the long-term.
In our approach to design, we saw the community and tourism aspects of the centre as a symbiotic relationship where the development of one is to the benefit of the other and vice versa. With the majority of tourism interest coming from abroad, it was necessary for the centre to also generate appeal to local communities and tourism. To translate this into design, we considered the design on both a macro and micro scale. On a macro scale, we wanted to create more opportunities for local community members to become involved in the use of the space. On a Micro scale, we reimagined the spaces within the centre in order for them to be more supportive of the community’s needs.
Our design took the form of creating solutions to existing challenges within the centre and in a manner that was also respectful to the original design:
- The use of durable local materials in support of regional authenticity, support of the local economy, and job creation.
- We re-imagined more permanent solutions for exhibitions spaces and a dedicated visitor shop within the centre.
- The dark, cluttered tourism information centre next to the centre entrance was redesigned as a deli shop and small restaurant. The space was opened up to connect better with the courtyards surrounding it, and new finishes lighten up the previously dark unutilized interior, making it more inviting for people to use and linger in the space.
- The courtyards, originally designed with uncomfortable mosaic tiled concrete furniture, have become neglected and disused.
- Our design sought to refurbish the courtyards to work in support of the Coffee shop. This included adding a fireplace for authentic cooking in the more private courtyard to the rear of the coffee shop.
- On a Macro level, we created a link with the park toward the east of the site, so it can be incorporated into a labyrinth path that connects with the newly constructed theatre located on the rear of the centre. We saw the park functioning as a spill over space to be used on big event days, and where members of the community could establish a weekend market, to build on aspects of community.
- Remodelling of the existing lecture rooms to the rear of the centre into an artist gallery for exhibition of works done by local artists.
- The creation of a new information and ticket sales office in the entrance foyer.