Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library design revealed

Last month, Sir David Adjaye, the principle architect and founder of Adjaye Associates who was recently awarded the 2021 Royal Gold Medal by Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), travelled to South Africa to unveil his design for Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library (TMPL).

Sir David Adjaye’s design for the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library consists of eight domed structures inspired by granary stores. Image courtesy of Adjaye Associates.

The library, a legacy project commissioned by the Thabo Mbeki Foundation, is intended as an embodiment of South Africa’s second democratic president’s vision of an African Renaissance, and as an institution that will engender that vision. “The Library will harbour the knowledge of the land whilst acting as a space for connection in which the advancement of an African Renaissance becomes the premise of the structure,” explains the architect’s description.  

“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,” said Adjaye.

The TMPL, which will be built in the suburb of Riviera in Johannesburg, starting next year,  will “feature a multiplicity of functions including a museum, temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium, women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience space, seminar rooms, office space and an archive center”.

Adjaye’s official description of the building explains that it will provide “infrastructure for the preservation and distribution of African history and knowledge, the Library will become a new anchorpoint and campus for local and international scholars”.

He describes the building as consisting of “eight cylindrical granary-styled forms”. Adjaye explains that the design is “a metaphor for knowledge-based nourishment” and uses “architecture as a tool to reimagine storage and sustenance into form”.

Practically speaking, each of the domed rammed-earth structures will accommodate the library’s various functions. “They are connected through an ‘indoor den’ — a horizontal interstitial space that extends the length of the entire building to provide a new public space in service to the community,” says the description. “The eight cylindrical granary-styled forms are made contemporary through the topping of domes with apertures that take into consideration the solar orientation of light within the site to create a distinct atmosphere for each of the programs within.”

Take a look at the fly-though animation here.

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