Devland SOWETO Education Campus


AIA Tri-State Design Awards
2021 Merit Award for Impact Design

The Devland SOWETO Education Campus is a 2000-m2 building on a beautifully landscaped 7000-m2 site in SOWETO, about twenty-five kilometers from Johannesburg. The project was conceived and developed by Deborah Terhune through Growing Up Africa, a non-profit organization whose mission is to build resilient education structures and related infrastructure for a future of ecological, social, and economic sustainability.

The fully accessible structure consists of multipurpose teaching spaces, flexible classrooms, open-plan work areas, a lecture hall, canteen, restrooms, storerooms, and administrative offices anchored by a large auditorium. The site’s outdoor spaces include a tree-shaded amphitheater, sculpture garden, expansive double-height porch, and a water-wise garden planted with over 40 native tree and plant species.

The building’s most recognizable feature is its soaring roofline that caps the auditorium on the northeast side of the site. The auditorium’s concrete framework is filled with thousands of sandbags, contributing to the extraordinary thermal and acoustic qualities of its interior space. Hundreds of galvanized aluminum extrusions make up the auditorium’s exterior cladding. The tightly spaced vertical elements improve the security of the auditorium’s large windows and help the auditorium “read” as a singular, impressive volume. The northwest facade of the building is scaled to respond to the neighborhood context of modest single-story residential structures. The low-slung roof is supported by slender galvanized steel posts and a super-thick sand-bag wall punctuated by thoughtfully-placed classroom windows.

Bright and colorful furnishings were selected to contrast with the rough concrete finishes of the building. All building materials, fittings, and finishes were donated by over 225 different companies, and all professionals provided their services for free. The project has been donated to the University of Johannesburg who will use the building as a satellite campus for graduate programs related to facilitating education and outreach.

The Devland SOWETO Education Campus was recognized with a Merit Award for Impact Design at the 2021 AIA Tri-State Design Awards.