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The design of an exploratorium at the Swartkop air force base, Valhalla, South Africa

South Africa’s Eurocentric pre-democratic era museums risk abandonment due to their acontextual, single-narratives and inability to adapt to their democratic context. Museums that exclude South African diversity through unacknowledged past experiences should be rescripted.

This thesis reconstructed and reactivated a pre-apartheid, post-WW1 conservation site dedicated for aviation commemoration into an appropriate architectural solution by rescripting the programme, use and aviation heritage resources. A dual approach investigated aspects of commemoration and the air force base functionality, using narrative exploration, poetic projection, mapping and precedent studies. Theoretical principles and conceptual conclusions were formulated: the user-object dialogue, trinitarian commemoration, the threefold threshold, the conditional approach and the secondary public space informed the proposed design.

The Exploratorium was proposed as an architectural typology that derived from adaptive reuse principles and appropriate commemorative and environmental research findings. A metanarrative architecture is proposed that commemorates public memory to the benefit of all South Africans and reactivates the operational and commemorative aspects of Air Force Base Swartkop.





We are all inherently surrounded by architecture to some degree and some decide to study the nature and theory behind the architecture that surrounds them, whereas others choose to experience the effects of it. For me, I’ve always had a curious attitude toward the assemblage of objects, and architecture, as objects, embody the true spirit of object compositions.

why did you choose to study architecture?

Francois Luc Groenewald


Tshwane University of Technology

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