Ubuntu Centre / Field Architecture

© Jess Field

The Ubuntu Center provides pediatric HIV testing and treatment, counseling, education, and community empowerment. The design is focused on de-stigmatization and normalization of HIV testing and treatment. It provides access to a state-of-the-art facility in a beleaguered post-apartheid community. The design is a model for sustainable development that begins with environment and extends to the preservation of life.

Architect: Field Architecture
Location: 5 Qe Qe Street, Zwide, 6200, , South Africa
Project Team: Stan Field (Lead Architect, SAIA, RIBA, Int’l Assoc. AIA), Jess Field (Lead Architect, Assoc. AIA), Mark Johnson (AIA), Jeff Pilotte, Andy Lin
Local Project Architects: John Blair Architects in association with NOH Architects
Project Manager: John Blair, Tim Hewitt-Coleman
Interior Design:
Mechanical and Electrical Engineer: Clinkscales Maughan-Brown
Structural and Civil Engineer: Iliso Consulting
General Contractor: SBT Construction (East Cape)
Landscape Architect: John Elliott, Matt Elliott
Lighting Design: Field Architecture
Acoustic Consultant for Hall: Ivan Kadey Design
Mosaic Mural: Dolla Sapeta
Networking and Communication Equipment: Cisco Systems
Project Area: 21,000 sqf
Photographs: Jess Field, Jon Riordan

© Jess Field

Funded globally and operated locally, Ubuntu reflects a world defined by unprecedented global connection and the resurgence of local, community based organization. Ubuntu center brings state of the art services to vulnerable children by providing centrally located, free and accessible social services in a single facility. It comprises a multi-purpose hall for education, concerts and shelter when needed; an empowerment wing with career guidance and computer centre, and a fully equipped Pediatric HIV /TB testing and counseling clinic with 47,691 people reached through community HIV prevention outreach. Ubuntu’s organic rooftop garden, together with Ubuntu’s neighborhood gardens feed 2,245 students daily. It provides a timely and practical template for sustainability on a societal as well as an environmental level. Ubuntu has been adopted by the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS relief (PEPFAR), and has become a model of success for the Clinton Global initiative, the Kresge foundation, and countless individual supporters.


The folded concrete forms read as independent volumes which lean on one another for support, sending the message of Ubuntu, which literally means: “I am because you are.” The distributed mass of the building allows pedestrian walkways to continue through the building uninterrupted; rather than entrances being punctured in the facades, the voids are a continuation of the township pathways. This creates a critical sense of community ownership which allows this building to survive in the township context. The clinic is placed en route to other life services to enable anonymous visitors. While fulfilling the center’s service based mission, the architecture attempts to minimize the potential social stigmatization of users. The design sends the message that every child, regardless of race or background, deserves access to world-class health and education.

© Jess Field
© Jess Field
© Jon Riordan
© Jon Riordan
© Jon Riordan

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* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Ubuntu Centre / Field Architecture" 19 May 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 26 May 2015. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=135432>
  • josh

    Very nice project, i like how the pedestrian’s feelings and experience was considered when they decided how to place particular progamatical elements. For some this can be a very intimate and socially-awkward to be seen going to certain spaces. But designing spaces to randomly arrive makes for a better experience.

  • Robb

    This is a great project, i’m surprised this hasn’t more comments. It seams only Zha gets everyone’s attention and everybody is drooling over that nonsense.

  • Josh

    I totaly agree, i thought this project would have received more attention from the community.
    Furthermore, this project speaks for itself very well done.

  • http://www.efrcdesign.com Edaurdo

    Yes, I completely agree with Josh and Robb, this is great project coming out of South Africa.
    It’s nice to see a community facility that has so much detail put into it.

  • http://archperspective.blogspot.com nammitt

    I’m an architecture student from the US working in South Africa this summer. I’d love to know more about the process that generated this project –
    will similar medical centers be constructed in the future?
    what is the clinton initiative’s role in the process?
    where is this center located within the community – near the heart of the city? in the outskirts? near existing medical facilities? and what do local PE residents think of the center?

    The architecture is fabulous and I applaud the merit of Field, NOH, and John Blair Architects for executing it so excellently. My only question is: what’s next? I’m in South Africa to learn more about this kind of work and I want to know what makes this international collaboration feasible. contact me if you are curious too.