PLAN 75: Article
Sa+P Plays Key Role In 'world Building Of The Year'

Use of Ancient Tile Vaulting Technique Led by Faculty and Alums

SA+P played a central role in the project that won this year’s World Building of the Year Award at the World Architecture Festival in Barcelona. South African architect Peter Rich won the award for his Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in South Africa, described by the jury as ‘clearly the most architecturally and psychologically powerful project in the final, very tough, analysis’.

The design and engineering of the ancient tile vaulting technique employed in the construction was done by John Ochsendorf, Class of 1942 Career Development Professor in the Department of Architecture, and Michael Ramage (MArch’06), currently a lecturer at the University of Cambridge. Also from SA+P, Matt Hodge (SM’07) conducted material research for the tiles and Philippe Block (SM’05, PhD’09) reviewed the structural design using the Thrust Network Analysis he developed for his PhD.

The structure’s stone-clad vaults and domed roofs were built using a 600-year-old technique that provides a structurally sound, elegantly simple and environmentally sustainable solution in developing areas. The 300,000 tiles used in the structure were made by two dozen local people over the course of a year and the building is clad with locally quarried stone, adding a stabilizing load to the vaults and integrating the building into its surroundings. The use of local materials helped achieve 90% reductions in construction energy use.

In addition to winning the World Building of the Year Award, the eco-friendly Mapungubwe Centre also finished first in the Culture Category at the World Architecture Forum, the category in which it was entered, and a month previously it won the David Alsop Sustainability Award from the Institution of Structural Engineers in London. That award, the industry's most prestigious, recognizes excellence in structural design and engineering and the demonstration of outstanding commitment to sustainability and respect for the environment.