Rammed-Earth Domes a Key Feature of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Rammed-Earth Domes a Key Feature of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library set to be built in the suburb of Riviera, Johannesburg, will use rammed-earth construction in homage to the country's second post-apartheid president, Thabo Mbeki, to celebrate ancient and contemporary African history.

The development’s eight domed rammed-earth structures will evoke a collection of traditional African granaries, made from mud sourced locally to reduce the library's embodied carbon footprint. Other traditional materials such as timber cladding will be harvested from native wood species, while terrazzo flooring throughout the building is to be crafted from local stone.

The 5,400-square-metre complex will comprise two levels – one of which will be concealed below ground. To minimise the building carbon emissions when in use, the library will utilise rooftop photo-voltaic solar panels to generate electricity and geothermal heating system, working in tandem with the thermal mass of rammed earth walls to regulate the building's temperature.

Each dome will be lit by a geometric aperture at roof level intended to create different lighting conditions and ‘a distinct atmosphere for each of the programs’.

Alongside the research centre and museum, the building will contain seminar rooms, a reading room, an auditorium, temporary exhibition spaces, and an area dedicated to the empowerment of women and archival spaces for the storage of artefacts belonging to historical African figures, including Mbeki.

Architecture Studio Adjaye Associates hopes the library, with its research centre and museum, will establish it as an ‘anchor point’ for local and international scholars.

The studio's founder, David Adjaye said "The Thabo Mbeki Centre presents an opportunity to realise the ambition of the dreams of President Thabo Mbeki to advance and empower an African renaissance.

"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."

Adjaye Associates was founded by British-Ghanian architect Adjaye in 2000, who was the recently named the recipient of the RIBA Gold Medal for 2021.

Adjaye Associates recently revealed its proposal for the Edo Museum of West African Art in Nigeria and the Le Mémorial des Martyrs in Niger that will be a composed of a grid of 56 concrete, four-pointed-star-shaped columns.