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Manifesting the Memory: A memorial for a meteorite

Part 2 Project 2010
Anja Bredell
University of Pretoria Pretoria South Africa
This thesis is intended to draw attention to the re-utilisation of existing structures, currently left to decay. Part of the focus is to redirect awareness towards heritage and conservation of tangible and intangible elements such as memories. The concept of the memorial is re-investigated as more than a monument for the dead, but rather an active facilitator of ongoing experiences, breathing new life into a static scarred landscape.
Set within the decomposing ruins of the Tswaing Meteorite Impact Crater’s (TMC) historic salt and soda factory, the project envisages a new layer of architecture to create a palimpsest of past, present and future memories.
The proposal suggests how new layers of construction can be integrated and juxtaposed to the existing built fabric and landscape. The desire is not to preserve, but rather to encourage the continuous layering of memories and contemporary interest in heritage, simultaneously the revitalised tourism will protect this fragile landscape against further deterioration.
The research question leads to the re-interpretation of heritage and conservation as a fluid concept in contrast with the assumed stilted perceptions of heritage as a preserved concept. The result is a layered construction as a volumetric expression that allows light and air to penetrate previous dark and un-inhabitable spaces. The design exploration is constantly informed by the existing, producing a sensitive articulation of space within the dilapidating soda and salt mine structures.
The design is further developed around the route through the landscape within which the building is enveloped. The architecture becomes a partial enclosure facilitating movement throughout the site as part of the experience.
In conclusion, the project illustrates that architecture becomes the celebrated meeting place between the old and the new, the past and the future, architecture and the human being.

Anja Bredell

Anja Bredell completed a mini-thesis, titled " Manifesting the memory: a memorial for a meteorite" in November 2009 as part of her Professional Masters degree in Architecture (RIBA part 2). The full document is available at:

Detail and merits of the work
Anja initiated her year by investigating the role of architecture as a facilitator of dwelling, extending its responsibility beyond that of shelter. Within this context, she argued that the architectural experience is emphasised through the intangible. Whilst evaluating possible sites, Anja stumbled across an impact crater by chance. The Tswaing crater is the result of a meteorite crashing into the earth, approximately 220 000 years ago. The crater is located within a 2000 hectare conservation area near Pretoria, South Africa.

Anja researched the origin of the Tswaing crater; tracing its human occupation from the stone ages to the present day. During the different occupation stages, the crater remained a source of salt for human consumption. This shifted Anja’s focus from the 120m deep landform, to the remaining traces of the built structures erected circa 1913 – 1918.

The design exploration was done as a palimpsest. Numerous site surveys (focusing on the fauna and flora) were coupled with the collection of available drawings of existing structures. Where information on the structures was inaccessible, Anja measured the ruins.

Within the remnants of the previous man-made structures she designed a new envelope. During this stage she questioned the notion of ‘architecture as enclosure’ in earnest.
The proposed structure extends into the landscape and functions as an anchor from which to explore the site. The broad programme title is an interpretation centre, although the design proposal accommodates geological and archaeological researchers, the surrounding community visiting the site for spiritual rituals and beliefs, and school children taking excursions to the site.

Anja’s design methodology focused on:

- Unveiling the memory of the site
identifying possible functions and activities for the site
- Analysing the human experience within this context
- Translation the above in to an architectural form

The final design represents a highly sensitive approach to context, the making of architectural form, and the resultant spatial experience.

Prof Dr Piet Vosloo, Study Leader

Mr Jacques Laubscher, Mentor


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