How do you lift up a formerly beleaguered community in South Africa? For starters, build a $6 million education and health center as the township's nucleus. That is what the Ubuntu Education Fund did with California-based Field Architecture's award-winning design. Located in Port Elizabeth's Zwide Township, and based on the Bantu concept that no human lives in isolation, the Ubuntu Center features various sustainable components such as locally-sourced materials, passive design and renewable energy sources.
Inspired by Zwide’s footprints, Stan Field designed a space for people to walk through, not to. Born in Port Elizabeth during the apartheid era, he felt that long footpaths through a loosely aggregated center could transform how the community sees itself. Ngonyama Okpanum Hewitt-Coleman Architects, a local, Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) registered firm, oversaw the building’s construction.
Along with passive cooling and heating design, the building’s thermal mass reduces its reliance on mechanical systems. Thick concrete walls radiate heat back into the building, while large spaces outside maximize solar penetration for additional heat gain. Also included are photovoltaic panels that collect and convert solar energy into electricity.
For cooling, carefully placed windows create a convection effect. Low, ventilated windows circulate cool air, while hotter air is released through higher, stacked windows.
Irrigated with grey water, the rooftop garden further insulates the building. It also encourages once disenfranchised people to reconnect in a healthy, positive way. The Center opened in September, 2010, and includes a pediatric HIV clinic, a community theatre, an education wing, and office space.
Ubuntu center feeds 2,000 children each day, provides holistic support to 3,500 clients and their families, delivers after-school education to 250 students, and issues HIV counseling and testing to 6,000 community members.
In 2009, Architect magazine awarded Field Architecture the Progressive Architecture Award for their design.