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Mpumalanga University, Mbombela, SA


The University project was tendered as a design competition which was won by Cohen and Garson in 2013.


The sloping agricultural site is manipulated to create a terraced landscape of flat planes, steps and ramps on the ground plane. A large flat terrace outside the hall facilitates large gatherings and easy spill out from the hall. The changes of level are directly informed by the existing contours of the site. The traces of the raked agricultural planting is recalled in the formal square with the rectangular areas of planting, seating, water channels, steps and ramps. 

This approach is extended into the buildings by creating habitable, sometimes undulating roof spaces. The roofs of the hall and reception buildings are stepped, forming seating for both formal and informal gathering. Flat roofs are used for courtyard spaces (student support building) and for circulation as in the library building.


The various components of the building are arranged around courtyard spaces in varying degrees of privacy. These components and the courtyards they form are linked by a spinal element. The spine is conceived of as an actual and metaphoric structural element. Its ground level promenade as well as its roof level terrace serves as circulation, connecting the various buildings. The floors between house the Library and Computer facilities; a ‘spine of knowledge’ as the academic support or ‘back-bone’ of the university. The spine with its linear storage towers of books and its ribbon like work-stations is ever present throughout this portion of the campus.

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