Matola Raid Monument and Interpretive Centre by Impendulo Design Architects

Awarded Gauteng Institute for Architecture (GIFA) Award of Merit 2017  :  Impendulo Design Architects

The Matola Raid Monument and Interpretive Centre was initiated when the South African Department of Arts and Culture appointed the Department of Public Works to execute the design and construction of a project to commemorate the raid into Mozambique on 31 January 1981 by the then South African Government forces, which attacked 3 strategically targeted houses used by Umkhonto we Sizwe, resulting in 13 casualties.

The project was conceived between the Mozambique Ministry of Culture and the South African Department of Arts and Culture in a Memorandum of Understanding for the development of a Monument and Interpretive Centre.

Located on the corner of Governador Aimindo Bila Avenue and Rua dos Escultores in Matola, Mozambique, the project was completed on 12 September 2015. The location of the site allowed the design to integrate with the natural pedestrian and vehicular movements of the community. The urban design approach includes the Monument on a landscaped traffic circle and orientates the urban space to the Interpretive Centre.

The Monument component has formal ceremonial intergovernmental functions and memorialises the event of the Raid. It also has a less formal function in the community, as residents gravitate towards the Monument during weekends and evenings for leisure activities and to socialise. The Monument itself comprises three Red Obelisks orientated on radiating lines towards the location of the 3 houses raided. The edge of the pathway is defined by the “frontline wall”, honouring the states that opposed the South African Government during the struggle.

The Interpretive Centre is accommodated in a sculptured form which allows the urban space to migrate around and behind the ‘building’ and form a coherent development. The east/west orientation of the building symbolises the Raid, which is associated with sunset to the west; and the later emergence of a free South Africa, symbolically represented by the sunrise to the east. The first floor is intended to serve the community and provides a place for internet workstations for learners and a meeting place for civic leaders. The Interpretive Centre Forum provides interactive media for visitors which contextualise the years of the struggle and the impact of the Raid.

The project is intended to be a low-tech solution in a country where maintenance is expensive and facility management skills are not readily available. Heat gain on the extensively glazed elevations is reduced by the provision of decorative sun screens that filter sunlight out and allows natural light in. Passive ventilation is enabled by high level louvred skylights and a dehumidifier to cool the air under positive pressure, to create a natural upward flow of air. The dehumidifier reduces the energy consumption normal to air-conditioners. Being a public building, the finishes are robust, maintenance free and vandal-proof. In addition, corrosion within 5 kilometers of the sea required high specifications to the materials chosen.

The project has been a catalyst for the development of small businesses and has become an informal meeting place for the local community. The Interpretive Centre also provides for visitors and formal tours by school children. As such, the project has been well received in the community. The circle has become an integrated urban space in the community’s social life where people gather and meet in the evenings and congregate in the area over weekends. A small restaurant has opened and buildings around the new ‘square’ have been refurbished.

“The development of the Matola Raid Monument & Interpretive Centre meets the standards of DAC in terms of creating fitting monuments to the liberation of South Africa. Symbolically and visually, the memorial tells the story of the Raid in an emotive and non-combative way, and is an honest account of the Raid. The project team is to be congratulated on the integration of the Monument & Interpretive Centre, which merges well into the surrounding suburb and forms an inviting atmosphere. The design team tells the story objectively and invites interaction without inciting rage”. 
(Department of Arts and Culture)