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Ubuntu Centre / Field Architecture

  • Architects: Field Architecture
  • Location: 5 7th Street, Bethelsdorp 6059, South Africa
  • Architect: Field Architecture
  • 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
  • Mechanical And Electrical Engineer: Clinkscales Maughan-Brown
  • Structural And Civil Engineer: Iliso Consulting
  • Landscape Architect: John Elliott, Matt Elliott
  • Lighting Design: Field Architecture
  • Interior Design: Field Architecture
  • Acoustic Consultant for Hall: Ivan Kadey Design
  • Mosaic Mural: Dolla Sapeta
  • Networking and Communication Equipment:: Cisco Systems
  • General Contractor: SBT Construction (East Cape)
  • Area: 21000.0 ft2
  • Photographs: Jess Field, Jon Riordan

© Jess Field © Jess Field © Jess Field © Jess Field

From the architect. 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.

© Jess Field
© 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.

© Jess Field
© Jess Field

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.

© Jon Riordan
© Jon Riordan
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 . <>