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University of Mpumalanga, Mbombela, SA

Student Residence - 2014  


The University of Mpumalanga, Mbombela, opened towards the end of 2013, presents a unique set of challenges in considering tertiary education in post-apartheid South Africa. The proposal for the residential buildings aimed to reflect the aspirations of this new university. Providing context-sensitive, high quality facilities was of primary concern. A predominant design objective was to create a secure living space for students that is conducive to learning and enables positive social interaction. The main east-west street formalises the axis on which the two residential blocks, the main university square, and the Library facility lie. The main entrance to the residential complex is on this street. The existing residential block to the north of the new building is incorporated into the new complex.

The residences are structured as a series of ‘apartment blocks’ with internal courtyards. The modular block is repeated and modified according to programmatic requirements. These blocks are arranged along an internal street, creating intimate, public and social spaces.There is a sense of permeability on the street level, encouraging an interactions and encounters. The street widens to form a gathering space from which there is access to seminar rooms, parent meeting space and the student centre. Each room has natural cross ventilation and the facade pulls in and out to create deep inhabitable reveals which provide needed shading. Each apartment consists of a common room from which four double and one single bedroom are accessed. Entrance to four separate ablution facilities is via a discreet passage from the common room.

The courtyard typology was appropriate for the residential blocks in that it creates public and private common outdoor spaces and is climatically appropriate. The courtyards facilitate moments of calm within the university environment, as well as social gathering spaces. They also function to mediate Mbombela’s high temperatures, allowing all rooms to be cross ventilated. The possibility of using pedestrian streets and a central square as part of the public realm linking courtyards was explored. The residences should create a village like social spaces, both inside the buildings and within the external spaces held by

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