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Building Open Space

Part 2 Project 2002
Saskia Frankenberger
Anna Ross
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa
The design of an urban agricultural school originates from an urban vision I had for the lost and forgotten parks and open spaces of Johannesburg. Its idea is to transform previously unused, polluted and dangerous open space into open space that provides resources, recreation, livelihood, sustainability and aesthetic variety by introducing agriculture within an urban context

The site for the school, a thin wedge of forgotten open space along an arterial road, is situated between the city centre and suburbia, framed by two ridges and overlooks Bezuidenhout Valley with its series of green spaces for possible agricultural allotments.

The program of an agricultural school is diversified by associated functions that are communal, recreational, educational, commercial and nutritional in nature. This provides an opportunity for empowerment and livelihood as well as a park for recreation and leisure. The building is predominantly sunken and integrated with its site to conserve the notion of a park and open space. The design is thus an experiential route through a sculptured landscape defined by a sunken courtyard, green shade structures for cultivated produce, a library, buried classrooms, a community/lecture hall, cultivated terracing, indigenous ‘koppie’ landscape with landscape art, a cooking school/ restaurant with a panoramic view over the city, short term sleeping facilities for weekly workshops, an informal ‘green’ market to sell cultivated produce and a recycling and buyback centre. Important design generators were also passive energy systems and green technologies – orientation, rain water harvesting, natural ventilation, solar power, shading, waste recycling, composting and material choice.

Additionally, the design has become an exploration of architecture as landscape art. The proposed building, horizontal and submerged in the ground, blurs the boundaries of inside and outside, while green structures emerging out of the landscape serve as landmarks and symbols to green development.

Saskia Frankenberger
Anna Ross


This project transformed a wedge of left-over open space in the city into a ‘resourceful park’. Located between an arterial road and incorporating one of Johannesburg’s east west running ridges, the site provided an opportunity for the author to address questions of urban recreation, education, nutrition and sustainability.

The project is for an urban agriculture college that includes classrooms, library and laboratories, short term accommodation, cultivation courts, permaculture fields, rain water harvesting, composting, a cooking school and cafateria, a market and buy back recycling center. The building is predominantly sunken to conserve the indigenous landscape which continues to function as an urban park. Where structures emerge from the landscape they become landmarks and symbols for green development.

The college includes a series of open spaces in the valley that are farmed as allotments as part of its urban development programme.

For us the strengths of the scheme lay at both an urban level - the incorporation of a number of green spaces in the city into an open space system that provided environmental, leisure and economic opportunities, as well as at an architectural level - its resolution of aesthetic, social and environmental concerns. Passive systems and green technologies – orientation, rain water harvesting, natural ventilation, solar power, shading, waste recycling, composting etc. were carefully integrated into the building’s design.

2002
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