Designed by Peter Rich Architects, Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre tells about Mapungubwe’s rich and complex cultural heritage in Limpopo, South Africa. Mapungubwe, a Unesco World Heritage Site, was a highly prosperous area during the 13th and 14th centuries as one of the first places to produce gold. It was also where the first class-based development structure was implemented in South Africa. In this structure, the high classes would live on hills while the lower classes would inhabit the valley.
Image Credit: Iwan Baan
Nevertheless, the place lost its glamour for 700 years after its decline. In 1933, Mapungubwe once again started to attract attention with its cultural heritage as well as rich flora and fauna. That is, Mapungubwe is home to over 1000-year-old Baobab trees and a large variety of animal species, including elephants, giraffes, white rhinos, antelopes, and nearly 400 bird species.
Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre consists of ten stone vaults built using minimalistic and environmental methods. Architects preferred simple and cheap materials such as soil and cement tiles, stones, and reeds instead of materials like steel. Additionally, they adapted 700-year-old traditional Mediterranean methods of building vaults to South Africa’s climate.
The building process also aimed to integrate local labor into a poverty relief program. So, the center would also benefit the indigenous settlements that suffered from poverty and unemployment as a result of apartheid. Thus, the program introduced by the SANParks organization trained over 100 locals to build over 200 000 tiles used for the construction of the domes.