Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library: Adjaye Associates reviving African renaissance with architecture

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library is a learning, research, and cultural exchange space located in Riviera, Johannesburg. It is designed by Adjaye Associates based on the African perspective and houses a multitude of functions including a Museum, temporary exhibition space, research center, auditorium, shop, cafeteria, reading room, women’s empowerment center, digital experience, seminar rooms, office space, archive center, and service spaces.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The building not only spreads awareness about ancient and contemporary African history through its program but also reflects the same through its form. The Thabo Mbeki Presidential library cherishes the knowledge of the land and its structure embraces the advancement of the African renaissance. The design is conceptualized by Adjaye Associates as a metaphor for knowledge-based nourishment where the building refers to the structure of Granaries that have room for extension along with systemized feeding, planting, and harvesting.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

President Thabo Mbeki intends to empower the African Renaissance and the Thabo Mbeki center is a live representation of that dream. The architecture of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library is reflective of the collective memory of the entire continent. The architecture rethinks storage and sustenance into the built-form.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The archive center is a storehouse for the artifacts, papers, and key documents of important historical figures and President Mbeki himself. The library will act as a resource of knowledge and history for national and international scholars with its infrastructure symbolic of history and preserving historical documentation.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Granary-styled eight cylinders are used to carve the form with domes on top to create a contemporary look. The form takes into consideration the orientation of the sun on the site to regulate the ambiance for every program being held within. The internal spaces are connected through an indoor den extending along the entire building length and also creating a public space for the community. 

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Locally sourced compressed mud in the form of rammed earth is used in the face design of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library. The flooring of the project uses terrazzo made from local stone and timber cladding made of local wood species. The material choice altogether reduces the overall carbon footprint of the building. The climate of Johannesburg is subtropical highland which led to the incorporation of a solar harvesting system in the project making optimum use of sunlight. The rooftop houses photo-voltaic solar panels which absorb sunlight and generate electricity. The Geothermal heating system and thick walls store heat during the daytime which is released at night dropping the indoor temperatures and creating a warmer ambiance.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

The design accounts for both the African past and the African future with its collective memory-igniting approach and contemporary form celebrating the African renaissance with progressive thinking.

Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Fact Sheet

Project Name: Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Design Firm: Adjaye Associates

Local Architect: MMA Design Studio

Total area: 5400 sqm

Image Credits: Adjaye Associates

more insights