University of Mpumalanga, Mbombela, SA

Library - 2017

The Library and IT Student Resource Centre 

evolved through engagement with the client and contemporary university library experts. The mixed-use nature of this building is an interesting model for a resource centre. Its main function, is a library but in addition it includes an auditorium with associated breakaway/seminar/learning rooms and an IT learning centre.  All accommodation is accessed from a secure internal courtyard – an outdoor foyer. 

Although books have been catered for, The Library and IT Student Resource Centre are integral to each other as digitised Libraries become crucial in 21st C universities. Contemporary University Libraries should create a traditional and digital library landscape; the centre where knowledge is created, disseminated and preserved – a place of integrated technology and human capital. It is assumed that books are still essential in a Library and this forms a central focus of the design.

The design intent was to create a strong edge to the square and give iconic presence to the Library, the ‘knowledge centre’ for the university. The library is a two story double volume ‘container’ that appears suspended over the colonnade that edges the square. The walled, heavily massed building is both a response to climate and use – the shaped screen brick wall, with texture reminiscent of African basket weaving, is a protective climatic skin externally, providing protection from the harsh west sun. Internally, a ‘screen of books’ runs one meter from the external wall following its profile. The ribbon of double volume bookshelves is integrated with a ‘displacement ventilation’ cooling system. At roof level the wall is raised to allow diffused east light into the building