Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library/

Adjaye Associates

South Africa

Project Details



Johannesburg / South Africa


Educational Unbuilt

Year (Design/Construction):

2020 / -

Area (Net/Gross):

- / 5.400 m2
Operational Carbon emissions

Operational Carbon emissions (B6) kgCO2e/m2/y:

Embodied Carbon emissions

Embodied Carbon emissions (A1-A3) kgCO2e/m2:

  • Use of locally sourced compressed mud for the rammed earth facades.
  • Locally sourced stone and wood will be used for terrace flooring and interior cladding.
  • Part of the electricity needs will be generated by photovoltaic solar panels located on the rooftop of the building.

Project description as provided by the architects.

Located in Johannesburg, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library is a space of excellence,  learning, research, discourse and cultural exchange predicated on the African  perspective. The new Library will feature a multiplicity of functions including a museum,  temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium,  women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience  space, seminar rooms, office space and an archive center. The archive center will act  as a repository for the papers, artifacts and key documents of President Mbeki and  other significant African historical figures. Providing infrastructure for the preservation  and distribution of African history and knowledge, the Library will become a new  anchorpoint and campus for local and international scholars. 

Conceptually, the new building makes visible the invisible knowledge of ancient and  contemporary African history through both form and program. Sited in Riviera,  Johannesburg, the Library will harbour the knowledge of the land whilst acting as a  space for connection in which the advancement of an African Renaissance becomes  the premise of the structure. Represented in design as a metaphor for knowledge based nourishment, the new building references the structures of granaries — which  allow for the extension of grain production and the systematization of cycles of  feeding, planting and harvesting.  

Using architecture as a tool to reimagine storage  and sustenance into form, the granary stores guide  the overall building concept. The eight cylindrical  granary-styled forms are made contemporary through  the topping of domes with apertures that take into consideration the solar orientation of light within.  The internal infrastructure of these  chambers see to it that the building accommodates  a multiplicity of programmatic functions. They are  connected through an ‘indoor den’ — a horizontal interstitial space that extends the length of the entire  building to provide a new public space in service to  the community.  

Use of the locally sourced compressed mud in the form of a rammed earth facade,  terrazzo flooring made from local stone and timber cladding from local wood  species collectively reduce the overall carbon footprint of the structure. Through  a site-specific understanding of the subtropical highland climate of Johannesburg,  solar harvesting is utilized through state of the art photo-voltaic solar panels, located  on the rooftop   absorbing sunlight and generating electricity. 

The architecture of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library brings together  continental African thought and form as a powerful means of tapping into  collective memory. This memory, embedded within the intelligence of the African  consciousness, now sees a typology of learning and a typology of sustenance  materialize into form. 

Client: Thabo Mbeki Foundation

Project Architect: Adjaye Associates

Local Architect: MMA Design Studios
Link to the project on the architect website: https//

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