Visit to Liliesleaf in South Africa

Posted by sam

on February 29, 2012

Categories: Architecture, Travel


When in South Africa recently, I visited the Liliesleaf Learning Centre & Heritage Precinct.
Our Studio met Mashabane Rose at The World Architecture Festival in 2009 who were nominated for their work on the project under Culture: Existing Buildings.

Liliesleaf is a place I’ve always intended to visit after meeting with the talented and sensitive architectural practice; and also being South African, it has a significant place in the important history of my country.

The trip out and whole Liliesleaf experience was thoroughly enjoyable and worthwhile. Mashabane Rose have done an excellent job at creating modern architecture whilst preserving the Historical structures and activities which took place on the site. One can enjoy the landscape and tranquil setting whilst going back in time taking in the story and events leading up to the Liliesleaf raid in 1963.

The existing Manor House and Out buildings, including the Thatched cottage has been sensitively restored and reconstructed where necessary. Spaces with previously dedicated purposes and known significance are interpreted and returned to their state at the time of the 1963 police raid which led to Nelson Mandela serving 27 years on Robin Island.

The Struggle Library Research and Archive Centre is a concrete structure with brick work that matches the historical outbuildings. Large glazed panels offer the public areas and offices views across the gardens and the historical structures. Formed out of dry stacked ‘African’ stone walling and enclosed by glass and timber screens. An amphitheatre in the grounds provides a place for groups to listen to trained guides relating the story of the site. Stepped terraces nestle the scheme into the suburban neighbourhood with minimal impact.

Mashabane Rose have clearly taken care to ensure that the essence, spirit and soul that Liliesleaf Farm embodies is maintained for current and future generations.