A place of gathering in a brand-new province of a new South Africa, aiming towards a new South African architecture, including 90 000m2 of offices and meeting spaces for Mpumalanga.
The Mpumalanga Municipal Government Complex was the first major civic building to be commissioned in the newly constituted, democratic South Africa in 1997. Mpumalanga was a newly established province and was administered in 15 separate locations. Co-Arc International won the design competition to build a centralised legislative and government complex required by the province of Mpumalanga.
The building responds directly to its setting, which curves as it overlooks the meeting of the Crocodile and Nels rivers and has the purpose of being a place of meeting, gathering and enclosure, while specifically relating to a new South African context.
The buildings follow the gentle curve of the rivers and progress into a tighter curve that forms an enclosed public square, that protects the paperbark acacia, recalling the “gathering tree” of the traditional kgotla. Additionally, the parabolic dome gives hierarchy to the parliamentary chamber, literally but also contextually a reference to the monolithic granite outcrops that mark the Nelspruit landscape, a universally recognised architectural signifier of places of gathering.
The African landscape also inspired conceptual themes of finishing elements, which could roughly be categorised as earth, reed and grass. Earth elements such as the clay bricks and stonewalls; reed elements such as battened timber panelling and balcony structures and balustrades; and grass elements manifested in various ways, such as meshes, draped ceilings and the iconic basket-weave geometry of the inside of the dome all allude to a building that aims to be contextually South African, fully sustainable, and a marker for investment in a newly democratic South Africa.