Effective learning campus for Mpumalanga
Situated on the University of Mpumalanga Lower Campus, the Research Facility provides a spacious, bright academic environment that takes advantage of the climate and natural landscape of the region. It houses 10 specialized teaching laboratories, several post-graduate and research laboratories, raked and flat learning venues and administration offices.
Mpumalanga is famous for its beautiful undulating lush natural landscape and mountainous terrain, with steep slopes and rocky outcrops providing a challenging environment to build in. Clay brick is in natural harmony with the surrounding environment.
“Our intent was to challenge the stereotype of academic institutions,” explains the architect. “Most department are enclosed in windowless, monolithic blocks so no-one can see what is inside.
In our design the ground floor has multiple buildings, wide walkways and community courtyards, with views into the laboratories. We wanted students to feel free to linger and connect with each other and open discussions.
The layout lends itself to transparency whilst sensitively responding to the privacy, noise and climatic needs of an effective laboratory workspace.
Why clay brick?
“We selected authentic, honest materials,” describe the architect. A warm toned face-brick, off shutter concrete and glazing ensuring the envelope is in line with the broader campus look and feel. Tough and attractive terazzo are used on the high-traffic networks. Doors and joinery are from locally sourced hardwood timber and lend a warmth to the crisp white laboratory interiors.
With its ability to regulate both temperature and air humidity, clay brick buildings maintain an interior comfort zone in both the coolest and hottest months.
"Ceramic clay brick has two key benefits for walling in Mpumalanga," says Federale Stene GM Johan Humphries.
"First, clay brick walls minimise interior condensation in the high rainfall regions of Mpumalanga. This is why brick masonry is often the material of choice in passive solar design strategies.
"Second, the density and mass of clay bricks make them a natural sound barrier with high acoustic protection - ideal for community buildings. The acoustic insulation of clay brick ranges from 43db to 49db."
About the site
The footprint of the building sits at around 3500m2 including courtyards between each of the buildings. An existing unused parking platform on the university campus was identified as the extent of the site, a welcome constraint that mitigated surface challenges and guided the edges of the building to limit the impact on the natural environment.
Separate buildings across the site are connected by open, covered walkways that wrap around the main courtyard. This spine makes it easy to get from one location to another. The courtyards nestled in between the laboratories have been designed as open terraria with plants native to Mpumalanga. This helps reduce maintenance.
A strong groundwater source uncovered during the construction phase is channelled through the main courtyard providing natural white noise.
Who made it happen!
- Architects: Ludwig Hansen Architects, Urban Designers
- Brick supplier: Federale Stene
- Project Manager: University of Mpumalanga & GladAfrica Project Management
- Contractor: Trencon
- Landscape Architect: kwpCreate
- Structural Engineer: SKCM Engineers
- Civil Engineer: Delta Built Environment Consultants
- Mechanical Engineer: Aurecon
- Electrical Engineer: PLP Consulting Engineers