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Museum of Gold

Part 2 Project 2002
Marguerite Le Roux
Chloe Young
University of the Free State Bloemfontein South Africa
The Museum of Gold endeavours to document, memorialize, commemorate and above all acknowledge the epoch of mining as the entire raison d’etre of Johannesburg. The museum is envisaged as a concrete metaphor of the goldmine experience. It attempts to commemorate both the human achievement and the tragedy surrounding the epoch of mining. Sited on the mound of the Top Star Drive-in, it also helps to conserve the fast disappearing mine-dumps of Johannesburg.

The Museum of Gold is sited on the northern edge of the mound, affording a visual connection with the original “uitvalgrond” from which Johannesburg evolved. The existing drive-in screen is read independently from the new building - in this manner the screen remains part of the city and imparts meaning to the rest of the mound.

The entrance to the building extends via a 60 metres ramp. With this distance reflecting the depth of the mine shaft.

The Museum of Gold is submerged into the earth, yet, it makes its presence felt by protruding the surface like a half-buried skeleton. Internally, two major walls anchor the building; the one slanted [concrete], the other upright and covered with gold leaf: an architectural exaggeration contrasting the opulence of the precious metal with the tragedy of human exploitation.

Marguerite Le Roux
Chloe Young

The Department of Architecture follows the so-called mini-dissertation model in the final year of study. The primary objective is that the candidate must be able to comprehensively solve a complex design problem of his or her own choice. The student's ability is evaluated in broad terms according to the following criteria: contemporary theoretical insight, design innovation, contextual appropriation, techno-scientific implementation and climatological sustainability.

Marguerite's mini-dissertation entailed the design of a museum of gold, situated on top of a redundant mining mound in Johannesburg. The project pertains to a topical subject, with the discovery of the richest gold deposits in the world an integral part of South Africa's turbulent history. Inevitably, this precious metal has contributed enormously to the economic growth and development of this country. Marguerite's Museum of Gold, however, address not only the celebratory aspects thereof, but also the exploitative aspects that, firstly, resulted in the Anglo-Boer War, and, secondly, caused the additional loss of life by the mining industry itself. The project raises the ultimate question: Is the price of gold worth the loss of life that counts in the hundred thousands?

These underlying theoretical premises are portrayed in a series of architectural experiences, commencing with a delicate incision made into the surreal landscape. The length of the arduous route symbolizes the depth of the mining shaft, but in a horizontal direction. The visitor is thereupon exposed to different spaces that emulate the extreme conditions of tunnelling hundreds of metres below ground. The architecture conspires to recreate the dark, wet and claustophobic conditions to which millions of mine workers are daily exposed to.

The ultimate merit of the project does not lie in the creation of a building envelope for the material on display as customarily associated with museums per se. Rather, it lies in the manner in which the architecture physically emulates the mining experiences, and executed with relatively simple technological means.

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