Johannesburg, South Africa was built on mining. The gold mining industry began there in the late 1800s, and the city still feels the impact of acid mine drainage, which pollutes the local water supply and scars the environment. Architecture For a Change has a solution: a dam and water purification plant that could help heal the landscape – and in the future, it could even provide housing.
Acid mine drainage can pollute drinking water and soil. Johannesburg – near where some of the world’s biggest gold reefs are located – is suffering from the issue. Architecture For a Change says chronic exposure to acid mine drainage can cause cancer, skin lesions, and cognitive impairment. But they’ve found a potential solution through design.
They envision a network of purification stations to heal the landscape. A skyscraper would house laboratories and the purification plant, which could draw on Trailblazer KNEW Ion Exchange technology to treat contaminated water. The treatment process would not only yield clean water, but minerals and substances like dolomite, gypsum, and salt that could be used in fertilizers or building.
Re-mining Johannesburg doesn’t just clean up water, but could be integrated into the city’s urban fabric. Architecture For a Change envisions three phases for the project. First, water will be pumped from a mining void and purified, creating a large body of water that could become a waterfront held in by a dam. Second, as the land recovers water levels will go down, and the walls of the dam can be turned into housing. In phase three, in the far future, when the landscape is restored, the empty dam will be turned into a park fertilized with the byproducts of the treatment process, and surrounded by housing in the dam walls.
The purification plant could be turned into a solar power station to provide energy for the homes. The main building could also have room for a hotel, restaurants, offices, or retail spaces in the future.
The skyscraper design is inspired by mining headgear to connect the new buildings to the city’s past. Re-Mining Johannesburg also incorporates sustainable design: the building’s geometry means there is no roof or southern facade, minimizing heat loss. Heat from the purification process could be reused to warm the building in the winter.
Images courtesy of Architecture For a Change