Text description provided by the architects. At its heart, Akanyang is a social learning environment where students can gather to learn in new and interactive ways. Located on the Hatfield Campus of the University of Pretoria, Akanyang provides a safe space for students. The building emphasises the Universities contemporary approach to education. Akanyang solves the need of the university’s growing demand for socially interactive learning environments, by providing educational and leisure spaces for the students.
The facility is a southern extension to the existing Huis & Haard building. Nestled in a pedestrian corridor on campus, the proposed design intervention pushed into the pedestrian corridor, forcing an interaction with passing students and guiding them into the space. The external façade is made up of three architectural components.
The concrete box, the roof-scape and the light tower (lift shaft). The concrete structure that hangs into the pedestrian walkway, acts as a signage board for social comment, but also forms a seating bench. The light tower serves as an identifier for the entrance. The roof-scape pushes down the sides of the building to create intrigue to the innerworkings, with controlled glimpses of life within. The operators and end-users of the facility is NAS (The Faculty of Natural & Agricultural Sciences) along with CSA&G (Centre for Sexualities, AIDS & Gender) that have a vision to “understand power, explore diversity, examine difference and imagine inclusivity”.
These values were critical in the design thinking that was applied at Akanyang. Focus was placed on the inclusivity of the facility, ensuring that everything from the public access through to the toilet facilities was all inclusive and gender neutral. The brief and eventual building program required students to be able to gather in a comfortable social environment to learn, rest, meet, discuss, work and even sleep. As such, we wanted students to explore the diversity of spaces offered and to have the freedom to adapt these spaces to their needs.
Everything from the furniture, like the VITRA tool stool, through to the spatial planning was done in a manner that allowed students to mould the space to their needs. The gallery seating could be more private for break-away groups, or function as a lecture venue. The movable wall panels allow students to create pin-up spaces, or small cubicles, that fold away to make a larger space for group activities.
A central part of the CSA&G is student counselling, the program needed to serve not only the public access to the social learning facility, but also ensure student privacy of students visiting the CSA&G. As such, placement of windows to the pedestrian corridor was reduced. Resulting in the roof-scape pushing up against the existing building, to allow northern sun-exposure through a series of skylights.
Additional requirements for the project included the upgrade and refurbishment of the CSA&G offices, the addition of a pedestrian lift, the addition of a retail space that housed a grocery / takeaway store and the upgrade of the existing restroom facilities to ensure they are all inclusive. A building designed with the intention to allow its occupants to learn, socialise and take ownership of the space. Thus, aptly named Akanyang. a Tswana name meaning ‘thinking’.