UNIVERSITY OF BOTSWANA CONFERENCE CENTRE
MOTSWEDI ARCHITECTS - BOTSWANA
Drawings, plans, elevations
The client’s call for “old colonial style architecture” together with the space requirements are integrated and appraised within the context of site constraints, planning and statutory considerations. The Conference Centre is a one of a kind facility with the look and feel of a boutique hotel for the exclusive use of the University. It is a 5-star rated Conferencing Facility with capacity for 69 boutique Hotel bedrooms, 200 delegate auditorium, 130 delegate meeting rooms, and 2 no. Restaurants. The University of Botswana Conference Center building is a fusion of architectural design styles reflecting both the place of the Conference Centre in time and location. Colonial, Modern and traditional Setswana styles are re-imagined and represented at different levels with intent to cater for contemporary clientele. The facility offers world class conferencing with high end technology. Technology is of modern era as it displays characteristics of modernism. The Conference Centre is a strategic place where international visitors will have first contact with the country, the university, and therefore it needs to tell a story. The design thus considers the context of the project through the idea of interpreting names into place within the context of the project. This is in following the Setswana idiom “ina lebe seromo” which implies that name and place are inseperable and interdependent. The context of the project, being colonial and Setswana, looks to the four names/concepts of Serepudi, Sefalana, Patlelo and Maropeng: Maropeng is the place of origin, it is the ruins of our forefathers, it is the genius loci. The site aptly is located in the historical part of the city of Gaborone and is a part of the founding of the University of Botswana. The architecture therefore looks to the past and origins of the founding of the University, the historical district of Gaborone village and its colonial past. Serepudi refers to the deep eaves that are typical of the traditional Setswana structures, reminiscent as well of the deep varendas of the colonial buildings that were amongst the first modern structures built in Botswana. Sefalana sa thuto, the grain silo. The livelihood of our forefathers. Sefalana is the storage of grain, which we have translated into the store house of knowledge, the University. The design of the Setswana grain silo is distinct and recognizable in form. It is archaeologically the primary remains that expresses the knowledge of Batswana. Patlelo is the forecourt, lolwapa is the courtyard. While the patlelo is the primary space for public concourse and gathering, and indeed the place of the kgotla, the lolwapa is the organizing principle of the household, a place where much activity takes place. These two elements become the organizing principle of the functions of the University of Botswana Conference Centre. Consequently the elements become a historical precedent for our building form and material: sorghum grain is scattered on the custom carpet alongside the weaverbird (thaga); sisal weaved ceiling at the sefalana bar with deep eaves; melodic wrought iron columns line up the courtyard. A place with a name.