FUTURE JOHANNESBURG | Iconic pavilion for Johannesburg

 “about 1 million people pass through the Park Station Precinct every weekday, and millions of Rands change hands”

Zahira Asmal, the director of DESIGNING_SOUTHAFRICA has announced the construction of an urban pavilion designed by world-renowned architect David Adjaye OBE.

An iconic 10x10m pavilion designed by world-renowned architect David Adjaye OBE, will be constructed within a public space at the north side of Park Station in Johannesburg’s inner city. With an opening date in May 2015 and remaining in place for 3 years, the project will highlight this historical junction in the city, while activating under-utilised public space. The project is initiated and managed by DESIGNING_SOUTHAFRICA (D_ZA) in collaboration with the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) and the Mayor of Johannesburg.

According to D_ZA,  the pavilion presents “an opportunity to celebrate this beautiful scope of diversity and to create space that is intended to accommodate the full range of users in the area. In a public space, free of cost, and easily accessible, this pavilion can celebrate all of the best parts of the people that spend time in such a dynamic space“.

Design concept

Images of the Blue Room. Reference: UrbanWorks

The pavilion will be located on the concourse next to the Gautrain station on the northern section of the Park Station precinct in Johannesburg. It is purposefully positioned in relation to the precinct’s vaulted old station – often referred to as the Blue Room. Inspiration is drawn directly from the building’s rhythmic arches and monumental aesthetic that was conceived to articulate the romance and grandeur of colonial travel. At the time, the opportunity was exclusive, so this pavilion is an antidote and rests on the idea of invitation rather than exclusion.

the arches are created by hundreds of hanging timber pieces of varying lengths, which are joined

Designed to provide visitors with an immersive and multi-sensual experience, the pavilion is like a giant piece of architectural furniture that continues David Adjaye’s investigation into proto-public buildings, gathering places from which to reflect on the state of the surrounding city. Often taking the form of protected platforms, they suggest that Adjaye is primarily concerned with making spaces that establish new relationships between people, places, and institutions.


Integrating enclosure, aperture, views, respite, meditation, performance and community, the pavilion also explores the idea of new and old by creating a dialogue between contemporary design and the historic vaults of the station building. The concept has therefore been driven by the use of a dominant primary material to reinterpret and respond to the forms of the arches. The timber columns and arches are elevated upon cast concrete podia, which also act as a highly durable urban furniture system.

Oriented to address the entrance to the station, the pavilion is rectangular on plan, with the rhythmic arches establishing an elegant, three dimensional frame. The proportions of the columns and arches are exaggerated and elongated to play with perspective and enhance the perception of height.  Measuring 5m tall, the geometry has been carefully configured to create a double arch on one side and a dramatic single arch on the other. The arches are created by hundreds of hanging timber pieces of varying lengths, which are joined to give the pavilion its rigidity and strength. The tactile nature and smell of the timber heightens the senses, while light filters in from above, providing a dynamic filigree of shadow below.

The largest transport node in Southern Africa

Park Station is inner city Johannesburg’s major transport hub and the largest transport node in southern Africa. The site of the station has been an essential nexus point in the city since train tracks were first laid on the Witwatersrand, connecting disparate mining towns along the reef.

about 1 million people pass through the Park Station Precinct every weekday, and millions of Rands change hands each day

It has grown with Johannesburg, reflecting political ideologies; ‘modern’ transport trends and new spatial configurations. Today the large Park Station complex blurs into the surrounding city, its edges redefined by street traders, formal retail extensions and movements of crowds. Rea Vaya, Gautrain, regional and international bus services, local and inter-city train services, taxis and pedestrians converge here, stimulating the inner city. Park Station is, and always has been, inner city Johannesburg’s arrival and departure point, the first and last experience of the city for many visitors.

It is estimated that about 1 million people pass through the Park Station Precinct every weekday, and millions of Rands change hands each day through small retail transactions and cross-border trade. Park Station Precinct is busy, congested and noisy. In many ways it is the bustling centre of a thriving but largely unregulated economic network that spans most of the continent.

Engagement: Movement and welcome

The launch of the pavilion is expected to be accompanied by a programme of activities, proposed for May 2015, to coincide with Africa Month. D_ZA will curate a series of engagements surrounding the themes of Movement and Welcome. Movements (political, economical, cultural, social and more) affect the look, feel and progress of cities. They are what infuse a city with the energy that gives them their individuality. As the central hub of transit in Southern Africa, and likely the busiest transport centre in all of Africa, Park Station is naturally a place of welcome and movement to all arriving in Johannesburg. Situated in a province that consists of 53% immigrants, Park Station hosts local commuters, national, and international travellers, and the pavilion will be a way to extend a welcome to those who move through it.

Local food, culture, and vendors in the Park Station Precinct. Images: UrbanWorks and Boundless City

A series of engagements with the local users of the space in and around Park Station is underway. Commuters have expressed a desire for safe and inclusive public space as well as public seating. The pavilion directly responds to these desires. Currently, D_ZA is continuing this engagement by connecting with local users in the space regarding the plans, receiving feedback and suggestions, and collecting “words of welcome,” which will be inscribed on the pavilion in the languages of those in and around the pavilion. These words will bring the voices and sentiments of those who inhabit the space each day into the design, and as a linguistically diverse precinct, the variety of languages can help many entering Johannesburg to feel welcome.

For more visit the D_ZA website.

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