As we explored Kimberley and the landscape of the Northern Cape, we came to appreciate the multi-layered landscapes marked by ancient habitation and colonial overlays. Some of these have been translated into elements in the building; the metaphor of the tree, the waterpan, the colonial verandah and the rock engravings of Wildebeeskuil and Driekopseiland.
We chose to explore these ideas through a narrative attached to the development of the design that attached voices and people to the kinds of spaces that we imagined. We thought that the architectural language of the new university should be driven through a contemporary response to an environmentally appropriate architecture, which places the buildings in the landscape of the city. It should be low key and modest with certain iconic highpoints that identify the university as a special place. These iconic moments are highlighted against the background of an urban field. This is the concept of balancing ‘background’ and ‘foreground’ buildings. These iconic moments are those that become ingrained in the memory of the city and give its users and inhabitants a sense of belonging and ownership. The public spaces of the university may become a meeting point for friends, a place to skateboard, focal points where iconic buildings are used as backdrops for wedding photos and where Graduation photos that adorn offices walls and mantelpieces are taken.