Tsoga Environmental Centre

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An award-winning community-based environmental education centre

  • Status: completed
  • Location: Cape Town, South Africa

The Tsoga Environmental Education Centre is Samora Machel, a suburb in Cape Town. Tsoga is a community-based environmental education organization funded by the City of Cape Town. The project won the Bronze award in the Holcim Regional Awards for Sustainability in 2005. The Project was designed by Anna Cowen and Vernon Collis for the project architects ARG Architects.

Bronze award in the Holcim Regional Awards for Sustainability,2005 

Locating the buildings on the boundaries maximised the use of the very small site and makes a sheltered central courtyard. The courtyard gives shelter from the severe south-easterly summer winds and accommodates a range of environmental activities that belong at the heart of the Centre: water management, food garden, fruit trees, a green space for people to enjoy.

With a focus on “keeping it local” the buildings were designed to maximize the benefit to the local neighbourhood.

The forms are a response to the need for an “appropriate technology” using local skills. To this end the most readily available artisan on site, the bricklayer, set up the building skeleton. The massive structural columns carry the pole, “latte” and reed roofs at regular intervals. The roofs shapes are a family of vaults that are structurally logical and spatially pleasing.

The primary walling material is re-used brick. Internal screens are of reeds and ‘latte’, as are the sunscreens that contribute to the thermal comfort of the building. Floors of reject granite slabs and Karri gum planking are hardwearing and require no maintenance.