A multidisci­plinary SPORTS CENTRE in SOWETO aims to INSPIRE and EMPOWER the next generation of athletes.


ADYNAMIC SPACE CREATED TO FUEL DREAMS and bring them one step closer to reality, the award-winning Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto first opened its doors in

2010, offering a much-needed space for young athletes, and giving marginalis­ed youngsters the chance to realise their sporting prowess. Fast-forward a decade, and the most utilised training ground in the area was in need of a refurb. The plan? To transform the soccer-focused centre into a multidisci­plinary sports destinatio­n that encourages social, educationa­l and creative opportunit­ies too. To bring the project to fruition, Nike enlisted the services of Joburg-based architectu­re outfit C76, who collaborat­ed with Futura Design Agency and the sports brand to create this safe and freely accessible area for the community.

As principal architect Carl Jacobsz explains, Chris Hani Road is the main route past the Diepkloof facility. “In the previous design, the ablution blocks were facing the busy road, which meant that the entire facility had its back to the community,” he says. “Our first priority was to move the main entrance to the south elevation, to connect it

directly to Chris Hani Road. We also rejected the traditiona­l ideas of high boundary walls, separation and disconnect­ion in favour of attractive, open thresholds. The renamed Shapa Soweto now connects with, and reaches into, the community – both visually and physically.”

The design team was committed to creating an authentic identity for the space, incorporat­ing African patterning in the design without resorting to insensitiv­e, discordant clichés. “We searched for ways to achieve that, and found inspiratio­n in Nike’s technology, which incorporat­es weaving to form the outer structure of some shoe designs,” says Carl. “The concept of weaving a roof structure helped us create something unique for the community hub, which is visible from Chris Hani Drive. “We settled on rebar steel – usually an undergroun­d material – as the main weaving

“The ROOF became the STAR OF THE SHOW because it successful­ly tackled the CONCEPT OF MOVEMENT and AFRICAN PATTERNING in one shot.”

material for the canopy. And although there is always some fluke in how shadows play out in the end, the roof became the star of the show because it successful­ly tackled the concept of movement and African patterning in one shot.”

During the design process, consultati­ons with community members resulted in the addition of a new community hub. The space includes a profession­ally designed skatepark by Olympic skateboard­er Dallas Oberholzer of Indigo Youth Movement, basketball courts, five-a-side soccer fields, an athletics oval, and a cross-country running track that surrounds the centre.

“Prior to the refurb, the interior of the building mainly consisted of offices, and wasn’t usually accessible to the general public,” Carl says. “We gutted everything inside to create two dance studios, a boxing studio, a gym and

a makers’ studio where people can flex their creative muscle.” On the lower ground level, locker rooms, team strategy rooms, shower facilities and the all-important tunnel for fired-up contenders to run out onto the field were also reimagined and custom-designed.

Gustav Greffrath, creative director of Futura Design Agency, explains the design language of the build. “We wanted the colour palette to blend in while still being iconic, so we drew inspiratio­n from the aerial views of the area, with its ochres, reds, browns and pinks,” he says. “We also created a graphic language by interpreti­ng the 23.5-degree angle of the Nike swoosh as triangles that are repeated throughout the fabric of the building.”

Futura is also responsibl­e for the striking graphic statements at Shapa Soweto, having collaborat­ed with local artists to establish an optimistic, futuristic feeling in the space. A massive beaded tapestry created by Mbali Mthethwa’s The Herd pays homage to Nike’s co-founder Bill Bowerman, while artworks by comic-book illustrato­r and artist Loyiso Mkize offer a fresh take on top athlete Caster Semenya. Hanging banners created by local artists feature inspiring portraits of Soweto sports legends such as boxer Jacob “Baby Jake” Matlala and iconic footballer Portia Modise, infusing the space with an atmosphere of promise and possibilit­y.

Grounded by textures of concrete, rammed earth, stone and glass, this impressive venue offers a sense of untapped potential, encouragin­g the superstars of the future to engage with and take ownership of the facility. shapasowet­ | | futurajobu­

The COLOUR PALETTE is inspired by AERIAL VIEWS of the area, with its OCHRES, REDS, BROWNS and PINKS.

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