An­cient past meets present

● Stu­dents cre­ate mod­ern-day de­sign space to re­flect Pin­na­cle Cave life

Weekend Post (South Africa) - - News - Guy Rogers rogersg@ti­soblack­star.co.za

An­cient ori­gins met young blood in the Lower Baak­ens Valley this week.

The encounter took the form of an ex­hi­bi­tion by 41 se­cond-year Nel­son Man­dela Uni­ver­sity School of Ar­chi­tec­ture stu­dents with an unusual brief.

The Ar­chi­tec­tural En­gage­ments with our Hu­man Ori­gins Ex­hi­bi­tion had be­gun four months ago with a call from the Pin­na­cle Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre, ex­hi­bi­tion or­gan­iser and ar­chi­tec­ture lec­turer John An­drews said. The cen­tre con­sisted of a non-profit com­pany es­tab­lished to show­case the wa­ter­shed dis­cov­er­ies made in a series of Mos­sel Bay caves, and the aim was to cre­ate a phys­i­cal, in­ter­pre­tive rep­re­sen­ta­tion of this en­deav­our that would be­come a tourist at­trac­tion.

“They were look­ing for some in­spi­ra­tional think­ing and de­signs for the build­ing and to cre­ate some in­ter­est around the de­vel­op­ment, and I put up my hand for us.

“We re­ceived their brief and then vis­ited the site in early Au­gust, which re­ally got us think- ing and cre­ated some gees [mo­ti­va­tion].

“We re­ally en­joyed en­gag­ing with our an­cient past and at the same time do­ing some­thing for real in the present, work­ing out all the nuts and bolts of how our dif­fer­ent de­signs would func­tion. Each of our eight de­signs are build­able, in my view. The whole thing has been rad­i­cally ex­cit­ing and chal­leng­ing.”

The brief stip­u­lated no bud­get re­stric­tion, but em­pha­sised the need for dis­play, re­search, en­ter­tain­ment and ed­u­ca­tion spa­ces and sus­tain­abil­ity in de- sign and op­er­a­tion.

An­drews said the dif­fer­ent de­signs in­cluded wa­ter tanks, so­lar power, and a nat­u­ral air con­di­tion­ing and ven­ti­la­tion sys­tem con­sist­ing of au­to­mated lou­vres which closed and opened de­pend­ing on changes in the tem­per­a­ture and the an­gle of the wind.

Use had been made of poles from lo­cally ac­ces­si­ble alien gum trees and grass for thatch and, to bring down costs, re­tail and busi­ness con­fer­ence zones had been in­cluded.

Three pos­si­ble sites had been mooted for the new in­ter- pre­ta­tive cen­tre, two on Mos­sel Bay Point near the light­house and one on the St Blaize Trail.

Which­ever site was cho­sen the cen­tre it­self should re­flect the fierce and beau­ti­ful el­e­ments and unique sense of place, An­drews said.

Pa­le­on­to­log­i­cal work in the Pin­na­cle Caves is be­ing un­der­taken by a mul­ti­party re­search group in­clud­ing Nel­son Man­dela Uni­ver­sity and Ari­zona State Uni­ver­sity from the US.

Their finds so far in­di­cate that a small band of hardy early hu­mans on the Cape south and east coast, per­haps as few as a cou­ple of hun­dred peo­ple, sur­vived the Ice Age 150,000 years ago to spread through Africa and the world.

Their most im­por­tant food was shell­fish that pro­vided omega three which boosted their brain ca­pac­ity. Their de­vel­op­ing in­ge­nu­ity helped them bring down the gi­ant game in the area and work out how to har­vest and cook bulbs, which needed to be leached of their tan­nins.

Fire-sharp­ened weapons made their ap­pear­ance, and the first prim­i­tive el­e­ments of art and cul­ture.

One of the NMU stu­dents, Daniel Fouche, 21, said her group had based their de­sign on the wind­ing stone fish traps that were laid in the shal­lows by these early hu­mans, with dif­fer­ent cham­bers of the build­ing de­signed to man­age the ebb and flow of tourists.

The project had been ex­hil­a­rat­ing but it had been per­plex­ing at times to fit their in­cli­na­tion to­wards for­mal straight lines with the de­mands of their free-flow­ing fish trap, she said.

“There was a lot of pas­sion, some shout­ing. It was an ad­ven­ture, a roller-coaster.”

Two rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Point Dis­cov­ery Cen­tre board viewed the de­signs for the first time at the ex­hi­bi­tion on Wed­nes­day night at the Werk Work­shop in the Lower Baak­ens Valley.

We en­joyed en­gag­ing with our an­cient past and do­ing some­thing for real in the present John An­drews AR­CHI­TEC­TURE LEC­TURER

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