The Arch for Arch, an intertwined wooden archway honoring Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has debuted in downtown Cape Town, South Africa on a site near Parliament where Tutu held many of his anti-Apartheid protests.
Designed by Snøhetta and Johannesburg-based Local Studio, in collaboration with Design Indaba and Hatch engineers, the Arch for Arch consists of 14 woven strands of Larch wood, representing the 14 chapters of South Africa’s constitution. Reaching nearly 30 feet tall (9 meters), the structure invite visitors to pass through and be reminded of the location’s prominent role in their country’s history on their way to the Company’s Garden, one of the most popular public spaces in the city since its establishment in 1652.
The archway uses structure as a metaphor for integrity and strength.
“A traditional arch is supported by opposing forces pushing against one another, held together by a keystone,” explain Snøhetta. “These structural properties emerged as a core concept for the design, where the Arch stands as a metaphor for the integrity of the country’s democracy whose conceptual keystone is the Constitution of South Africa.”
“Together the arching wooden elements inscribe a globe, celebrating Archbishop Tutu’s role as a unifying figure for the international peace movement.”
The Larch wood selected for the Arch is highly durable and weather-resistant, which will allow the structure to age gracefully. The material’s warmth is also unusual for a memorial, which typically convey messages of solidity and permanence through materials like stone or concrete. This choice was made to encourage people to interact with the structure in a friendlier way.
“The Arch for Arch is more than a monument for Archbishop Tutu. It builds on the legacy of South Africa’s foremost campaigner for democracy to create a platform for public participation in upholding the Constitution,” continues Snøhetta. “The Arch will stand as a permanent tribute to what was sacrificed in the pursuit of democracy, and the vital necessity of protecting these rights for generations to come.”
The Arch was first unveiled for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 86th birthday on October 7, 2017. A second, smaller version of the Arch was also erected on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, near the Constitutional Court, on December 10th honoring the 21st anniversary of the signing of the South African Constitution.