Change the world


Four Mandela University second-year students in Architectural Technology won third place in the York Timbers, national Timber Design competition, designing a Biodiversity Skills Centre to complement the Lapalala Wilderness School in Limpopo,


Staff members Hyacinthe Tonga, Emma Ayesu-Koranteng, Hansie Vosloo and Reetumetsi Malefane, together with the team of winning students.  

Students Chiloane Thabang, Njabulo Ngwenya, Andile Gxubane and Lutho Mhlauli, under the leadership of lecturer Hansie Vosloo and Reetumetsi Malefane had to apply structural and ecological possibilities of timber construction to design a multi-purpose and interactive learning centre accessible to the community.

The students’ design-driven idea was based on the Sepedi traditional outfit. The Sepedi tribe also known as the Northern Sotho people, has a rich history and a vibrant cultural heritage. The building design element derives its shapes from the Pedi traditional outfits and takes its form and context from around it.

Their eco-friendly design features around community engagement, maximises natural light and integrate local aesthetics. The building’s design showcases a profound understanding of sustainable, functional and visually appealing spaces for modern urban living, said Hyacinthe Tonga, Architectural Technology and Interior Design Head of Department.

Mass Timber Construction Design Workshop

The students participated in a Mass Timber Construction Design Workshop to prepare them for this competition. Mr Tonga welcomed Emma Ayesu-Koranteng, Mandela University industry expert and Human Settlement Department Head, and European experts Mark O’Connor from Rothoblaas, David Marks from Mewa and Duncan Harrison from Arup, to the workshop.

Students learnt about material possibilities and limitations, cost of design and construction, building methods and techniques, and examples of successful buildings in the industry.

For the competition the students had to interpret, invent, and apply numerous methods of building systems focusing on emerging technologies in timber design on a real-world site. Students had to imagine sustainable buildings from renewable resources to provide healthy learning environments.


Contact information
Ms Elma de Koker
Internal Communication Practitioner
Tel: 041-504 2160