Chief’s Community Building






A sustainably designed meeting place for community chiefs

  • Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
  • Status: Completed

This was a sub project within the Greenshops Project and consisted of the construction of a meeting place for the Community Chiefs.

Within the site planning which reflects both the Edwardian grid of the town and traditional Xhosa homestead layouts, the chief’s meeting place is a framed column structure with bricks harvested from the old Magistrates Court building and infill panels of the traditional Xhosa wattle and daub walling. This work was done by the local women, instilling confidence in a traditional skill that is losing currency, but that is truly sustainable.

The roof structures are made from locally grown poles, treated in a boron immersion plant and solar kiln set up on site and that demonstrate what could be the basis for a small business. On site processing and machining of the locally harvested timber for flooring, wall panels, doors, shelving and furniture also served to demonstrate the small enterprise potential of this activity.

Rain water collected off the roofs is used to irrigate the food garden and plants Passive solar control and a balanced day-lighting and generate electricity (still to be installed) was achieved through correct orientation of the buildings and appropriate roof design. A passive air cooling system where the clay cooled basement air is drawn up through the flooring to cross-ventilate the building was designed into the building.

Team: As per Greenshops Project


Recorded Interviews with Greenshops Clients, Employees and Builders.

“They (the clients) say that it is peaceful and that they feel at home here and that they are not intimidated like the city buildings. The banks in the cities are so ‘up there’ but this is friendly” 

Simele Baza
Nedbank Employee


“This place seems modern and traditional. It is both. I like it because everyone just wants modern. But now you have used traditional ways to build as well. The people who go to the city are forgetting our culture. I like this way of building. It is isi-Xhosa”



“The community is talking. They didn’t know that you could build something so beautiful from that forest.”



“The way the building was made and the gardens are the same. They really work well together. They have been made using the same principles. It makes so much sense. They fit together so well in the landscape. I haven’t seen it done to this level before”

 Tim Wiggerly
Permaculture Garden Trainer


“This old Law Court used to be a place of Zombies. But now you have turned it into a place of Engelosi (angels). It is a very beautiful place now. I didn’t know that you could make something new like this from something old”



“The process of building, of recycling, was so efficient. Also, I have been involved in many projects where they say that the money will get back to the community. It hardly ever happens that way. But in this project it really did happen, it was very effective, the community actually did benefit. Also people were trained”

 Jon Bosazza
Project Wattle & Daub Trainer and Pole erection Sub-contractor/trainer


“This way of building is very interesting. It is much more economical than normal construction. It has made me think. Normally we just throw stuff away, but here we use it somewhere in the building and then save money!”

Foreman and Trainer


“I don’t understand. What’s going on? Why are there no trucks? Normally there is dust and big trucks. I don’t see any trucks”

Wavecrest Chef


“I did not know that you can reuse the old brick. I thought that the old brick is too old to use again. It looks like new now.”

Woman Labourer


“I have become the expert on making foundations from rubble. I have learnt how to choose the rubble from the old building to make concrete foundations”.



“The people are asking about these daggha (mud) walls. They see that we now put grass in the walls to make it strong. Also the lime. Normally we don’t use these. And this is the chiefs building. But we have also put the brick columns there. So it is also a modern building but also traditional. It is new for them. They like it very much.”

Project Foreman and Trainer


“I used to work on the Gold Mines in the Free State, President Steyn Number 2 shaft, driller boy. It was very hard work, but I got sick. I like this work here much better. It is hard work but it is very interesting. I learn a lot because I can build at home like this”.

 Sipho Mboyi