Wits rural campus, Kate Otten Architects

Wits Rural Facility | Kate Otten Architects

| 14 : 30 – 11 November 2018 |


Wits rural facility, Rural community center

Wits Rural Facility designed by Kate Otten Architects is a platform for research and training for rural community in Limpopo, South Africa.

Located in the Bushbuckridge region, the facility serves as a unique base for the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand, established in 1989. The rural centre located along the borders of Kruger National Park is part of a phased upgrade to existing research facility. Infrastructure developed by the architects includes a new conference and training center. These facilities are a part of the 350 hectare bushveld estate owned by Wits University.The built form is spread around trees and linked via covered pathways. Natural topography and environment were main criteria for design of the facility which won SAIA Limpopo Regional Award.

Wits rural facility, Kruger national park, Wits rural campus, Training center

Concrete and wood majorly used for facility

From the Architect – 

The Wits Rural Campus (WRC) project is a phased upgrade of an existing environmental research facility on the borders of Kruger National Park to create a Rural Knowledge Hub. The WRC provides research and social engagement opportunities for local and international students. Communities also benefit from training programs and interactions with researchers.

Location – 

The location of the WRC in an environmentally protected research context was the key design driver. The existing main lodge site was chosen for Phase 1 – a new Conference Training and Research Facility. Using an already developed part of the site and adapting existing building facilities where possible, limited expansion into the bush. It is a pedestrian-only zone with the two existing vehicle access roads retained – avoiding the creation of new roadways.


Courtyard, Wits rural campus, Wits rural facility, Training center, Covered pathways

Facilities around the courtyard

This approach carries through into the built form. Conceptually, the buildings are individual units, linked by covered walkways, allowing them to shift to accommodate existing terrain and protected trees. This shifting geometry offers opportunities to form courtyards and gathering places, and opens up visual corridors to the surrounding bushveldt.

Roof of the rural facility – 

The roofs linking the units respond directly to the landscape by following the natural topography of the site, rising, falling and slipping underneath and between the extensive tree cover. They also cut away to allow trees to grow through the buildings. Only two trees were removed. Through a careful use of colour and scale, the buildings are quiet and recede into the landscape.

Wits rural campus, Wits rural facility, Gabion wall, Stone rubble wall

Stone wall detail

Economic, social and environmental sustainability were a natural extension of the design approach. Choice of materials, use of available skills, passive climate control, rainwater collection and sewerage purification are all employed to this effect. During construction, a rigorous Environmental Management Plan was implemented. Finally, the landscape design guides the rehabilitation of previously damaged areas and ensures protection of the environment into the future.

Rural wits campus, wits rural facility, covered courtyard, covered pathway

Covered pathways interconnect the units

Project details :-


Project Name – Wits Rural Facility

Architect – Kate Otten Architects | www.kateottenarchitects.com

Project Location – Limpopo, South Africa

Project Type – Public space, Community centre, Skill development centre,

Lead Architect  – Kate Otten

Client NameUniversity of the Witwatersrand

Photography Credit – © Graham De Lacy

Completion year – 2016

Awards received – SAIA Limpopo Regional Award, SAIA Commendation for Architecture

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