The R83,5-million Dinosaur Interpretive Centre at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park near Clarens, Free State, is nearing completion and is expected to be a significant architectural and construction achievement, with its unique brickwork and design elements.

Interactive museum and scientific research station

The centre will primarily serve as an interactive museum in the thriving tourist location as well as a scientific research station aimed at preserving the remains of the archaeological site, where one of the oldest known dinosaur nesting grounds was discovered in 2012. The locale is nearly 100-million years older than previously uncovered sites.

Internally, the centre will feature an exhibition floor and state-of-the-art laboratories, which make up about 2 500m²of floor space. 

Unique architectural design

Matthew Simmonds, contracts director of GVK-Siya Zama, who is responsible for building the centre, says the architectural design called for brickwork in patterns that resemble dinosaur scales, presenting a unique challenge for the construction team.

“In addition, the centre is situated at the bottom of a massive sandstone rock outcrop and the face brick used for construction had to be strategically selected to match the colour of the sandstone, with a view to matching and enhancing the beauty and aesthetics of the landscape. The building also has rooftop vegetation to further ensure it merges with the surrounding landscape,” says Simmonds.

Materials used include off-shutter decorative concrete, face brick, epoxy flooring and double-glazed glass facades. Design elements include brick scale and colour-matching sandstone surrounds, decorative concrete, a landscaped roof and curved double glazing.    

Commencement of the centre

Construction of the centre commenced in 2019 and reached practical completion in March this year. Despite delays due to the pandemic, GVK-Siya Zama handed over the building in March and has since been conducting additional work on the interior of the building.

While the design of the building presented its own challenges, the area and terrain where the centre is located also presented their own set of complications, with the site team having to endure harsh weather conditions and finding ways to get materials to the remote location. “Some materials had to be transported from Johannesburg to ensure the quality and reliability of the construction materials,” notes Simmonds.

Complex project nearing completion

“The end product speaks to the ability and passion of our team to deliver such a complex project, despite the challenges, harsh conditions and location. With the right mix of subcontractors, suppliers and core team members, we have been able to deliver an exceptional building that will no doubt enthral, educate and illuminate current and future generations for many years to come.

“For me, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime project. It’s certainly what I would consider a legacy project – for GVK-Siya Zama and for me,” concludes Simmonds.

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to https://www.siyazama.co.za/ for the information in this editorial.

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