CHAMBER OF MINES BUILDING - UNIVERSITY OF THE WITWATERSRAND
Revitalising the facilities around a newly enclosed courtyard breathes activity and a sense of place into an Engineering Faculty that was not quite completed.
During the early 1980s, the University of the Witwatersrand aimed to expand across the M1 highway to develop a new Engineering Faculty on its West Campus. The Chamber of Mines building was envisioned by Co-Arc International in accordance with the master plan of this expansion, but due to certain constraints, only three of the four quadrants of this square building – centered around a courtyard – were built at the time, and the masterplan itself was never implemented.
The aim of the building was to house the various academic programmes of the engineering faculty, around a central courtyard space, which would serve as a space where students could meet, sit, circulate and socialise. However, over time the courtyard became overgrown and unused, especially during winter, and did not function as intended.
In the late 2000s the University wanted to complete the fourth quadrant of the building, and Co-Arc saw an opportunity not only to complete the design, but to improve upon what was already there, thus maximising the university’s investment.
Co-Arc used the opportunity to create a more modern fourth quadrant, juxtaposing the initial post-modern design and revitalising the building aesthetic, and to enclose the central courtyard with a glazed dome, which dramatically changed the atmosphere and use of space within the building.
Acting as landmark on the West Campus, the courtyard is now used as a meeting place and active social space, significantly improving the human environment of the building and contributing to a more sustainable design.