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First Year Project  |  2016

Contemporary - Zulu - vernacular design


This project brief required a gravescheme (memorial site) design for a revolutionary artist of South Africa. My artist of choice was Johnny Clegg, an artist who has united different cultures by learning from them all and finding common ground between their respective ways of life. His music transcended the cultural boundaries and allowed all of the South African people to participate and relate.


Because of Johnny’s close relationship to the Zulu culture, the contemporary burial design emulated the vernacular architecture of the Zulu hut. Rammed earth walls were used to form a strong datum and respresent the timeline of his life - Zulu huts are built from mud and tatched dry grass, which are are seen in the rammed earth walls. Furthermore, steel frame walls with glass infill are filled with dry grass that represent the tatched roofs of the traditional huts. The linear design included two bends in the datum that presented (three) moments of experience within the design, these three experiences were designed to instill 3 spaces of reflection related to phases of Johnny’s life.  A strong axis was followed on site as contextual response, but contributed immensely to a chronological narrative. When users dwelled this design it should instill moments experienced within the Zulu culture, but ultimately tell the story of Johnny Clegg’s inspiring life.

The design aimed to contemporize elements of the traditional Zulu hut as seen above. Tatched grass roofs and adobe earth constructed mud walls are very common techniques used in Zulu construction methods. Utilizing similar material in a contemporary fashion would evoke the senses and haptic experience found in these huts.


The triad of lines in the chronological sense of the design, represent Johnny’s time in England and the old Rhodesia (which is Zimbabwe today) before he eventually moved to South Africa and became known as the famous ‘White Zulu’. A spiritual evoking design and a place of memories that pay homage to what many would call a modern day hero and an inspirational figure to the world.  

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