Umkhumbane Cultural and Heritage Museum, designed by local architecture firm Choromanski Architects, was recognised as Africa’s best new building at the continent’s inaugural Africa Architecture Awards, hosted on 28 September 2017 at the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Zeitz MOCAA in Cape Town. The Grand Prix, which went to Umkhumbane served as the evening’s most notable prize.
Established by construction group Saint-Gobain, the Africa Architecture Awards mark the first Pan-African architecture awards programme that promises to showcase Africa’s best projects. Winners were elected by a jury of architects and academics based across Africa. Chaired by Ugandan Mark Olweny, it included Anna Abengowe from Nigeria, Guillaume Koffi from Côte d’Ivoire, Patti Anahory from Cape Verde, and Tanzeem Razak, Edgar Pieterse and Phill Mashabane who are all from South Africa.
The Umkhumbane building is located in Cato Manor, a township named after Durban’s first mayor, and is abundantly acknowledged for its rich cultural and political heritage. It features walls with triangular perforations, which bring dappled light into a grand atrium. The anecdote of Umkhumbane commenced with the objective being initially the design of a museum to register the heritage of Umkhumbane (Cato Manor). ‘Umkhumbane’ is derived after the local river.
As an internationally recognised, world-class award for African architecture, the objectives of the programme are to promote design excellence across a range of built environment disciplines; highlight a stronger awareness of the role of architects and urban designers with the general public; Cultivate public and private sector clients to commission better work; Facilitate conversations, connections and collaborative possibilities for architects across the continent.
The project, characterised by regeneration and an urban complex, comprises of the following elements:
– Queen thomo memorial internment: 7 May 2011 construction, early 2012
– uMkhumbane Museu – construction 2017
– Forced Removals Museum – future phase
– uMkhumbane Public Square – future phase
– uMkhumbane park + amphitheatre Concession Buildings – future phase
The heritage of Umkhumbane is a narrative of past events, subjugation, and consequent independence. It forms a major part of the site’s history. The museum stands as a national heritage of honour, pride, and courage of the people who resisted oppression that of which permeates through the present as a triumphal spirit of freedom. This spirit is an inspiration for the development of a superstructure that celebrates life, growth and the transition of a community of people.
Photography choromanski.com; Cazir Naroth; eThakwini Municipality, Roy Reed Photography; Prakash Bhikha;