Silent Mediator

Khulukani Bila, Lwanele Shabalala
University of Pretoria
South Africa

Project idea

The intended concept and or approach is to challenge the achetype of what the embassy is and what it embodies. The existing typologies that exist tend to emphasize the isolating of a stand-alone structure in order to ensure security but tends to cause minimal interaction with its environment. These typologies tend to not only create physical, but visual and overwhelming boundaries which completely block the public out.

Our concept was that of integration with the surrounding context with its cultures. A concept which is centred around the experience of the user rather than the aesthetic. the intention is to manifest the physical created space that can be enjoyed by both the embassy staff and the public. This would give the public an opportunity to enjoy the space they experienced before the proposed intervention. The essential aspect of security within the embassy has been integrated with the structure and design elements to an almost barrier-free soft edge.

In Conclusion, through this the barrier and its synonymity with security is questioned, and is rather fragmented and reconstituted within the building design.

Project description

The concept of create human centred barrier-free integrated space is can be found throughout the site. From the narrow linear language of the buildings, which allows for users to continually access the natural landscape and sunlight, to the uncontrolled and untamed landscaping that was found on site before construction to be integrated into the formal built element. This in itself pays respect to the context and the precious and delicate landscape of Ethiopia. the linear low-rising embassy is to blend into its residential context rather than over-power it and become a landmark.

The way in which the intervention has been planned out allows for future and contextual activities to occur, which would better the lives of the public. In essence, the public park is to become a gathering site and a place of interest. This could further the security around the site due to the high levels of pedestrian density. The zoning and design of the site also considers the privacy desired by the main embassy building and the housing and residence complex

Technical information

The public spaces tend to possess a light tectonic language in which the roof the timber roof structure is supported by timber beam and columns to mimic the African thorn tree? The infill would then comprise of the stereotomic concrete block as a juxtaposition. The ceiling to floor glazing furthers the interaction with the robust natural landscape.

The more private buildings and spaces take on a more stereotomic heavy structure with large desked height- ceiling window panes which gives the user the opportunity to work with the feeling of being in the natural landscape. The heaviness of this composition of material is softened by the natural vistas created and the natural timber finishes.

All materials used in the construction of this site would be left in their true and honest finish to create visual and tactile textures to be experienced by the user. The honesty of revealing certain sections of the ceiling structure and beam & column connections perpetuates the ideals of transparency and honesty.

As for the basement, as the embassy wing rises, it creates an opportunity to naturally ventilate the basement which features as a financial saving.
The material selection was inspired by the raw natural facades for both in The Czech Republic as well as in Ethiopia. The materials are also readily found in the Ethiopian context and has an adequate workforce to execute the design the three main materials mentioned above would be used all over the site as to create an underlying language visually.


Mathebe Aphane (Lecturer), Tessa Roux(Lecturer) and Derick deBryne(Lecturer)

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