new science centre

The state-of-the-art Nelson Mandela University (NMU) Science Centre was launched on 15 March 2024. Designed by SVA International, the project entailed the construction of a 150-seater digital planetarium dome, exhibition areas, lecture theatre and auxiliary spaces. 

Project location 

The science centre is located along University Way, which forms part of a major movement artery into the campus. At the onset, the decision was taken to set the building back on the eastern edge, thereby creating a public plaza and gathering space. 

The building’s eastern edge along this plaza was then further extended as a landscape onto the public realm, thus creating a “living edge”, allowing visitors to circulate both vertically and horizontally within a multi-levelled terrace. 

Flexible spaces 

new science centre

Landscaping formed an integral part of the eastern “living” edge, creating a soft, layered environment for users and visitors to engage with the building and adjacent public space.

Conceptualised as a multi-layered pavilion, the main spatial components include the planetarium dome, which creates the main focal and formal element within the composition. Placed off-axis on the plan as a datum within the double-volume foyer, it invites visitors on a journey prior to entering the dome. It further allows them to experience the building in a three-dimensional manner. 

Internally, the building creates multi-layered spaces around the auditorium dome, allowing for flexibility of use and movement hierarchy. Lecture venues and auxiliary spaces complement the main exhibition area.  

Materiality 

The choice of materiality was dictated by both a contemporary aesthetic, in line with client requirements, and consideration for maintenance, due to proximity to the ocean and general public use. 

The dome structure itself is a composite layer of steel and concrete, with a specialised digital installation within. 

new science centre

The NMU Science Centre is set back on the eastern edge, creating a public plaza and gathering space on a major movement artery into the campus.

Q: Why polished concrete/terrazzo and wood as flooring? 

Careful consideration for landscaping formed an integral part of the eastern “living” edge. This created a soft, layered environment for users and visitors to engage with the building and adjacent public space.  

The Nelson Mandela University Science Centre aims to create a modern academic and research environment, while showcasing the university’s aspiration towards the advancement of open science. 

 

Project details: 

Name: Nelson Mandela University Science Centre. 

Type: Education. 

Location: Port Elizabeth, South Africa. 

Architects: SVA International. 

Area: 2 900 m². 

Year: 2023. 

Photographs: Ray Truter Photography. 

Lead architects: Tony Danev, Stephanie Janse van Vuuren, Judy du Preez. 

Principal contractor: WBHO Construction. 

 

For more information, contact SVA International: 

Tel: +27 41 571 6362  

Email: sva-pe@svarchitects.com 

Website: https://www.svarchitects.com/ 

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