Gapp Architects completes new public park around themes of truth and reconciliation
The Freedom Park is a project mandated by President Nelson Mandela as the natural outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission process that occurred after the fall of Apartheid. Its vision is structured around four key ideas: reconciliation, nation building, freedom of people and humanity. The making of the landscape seeks to recognise the spiritual origins of these ideas, and manifest them symbolically in physical form.
It fulfils the cultural role of a Garden of Remembrance – a natural indigenous garden telling the story of South Africa’s progression to freedom, a natural symbol for reparation, a symbol of healing, a symbol of cleansing and a place where the souls of those who lost their lives in the quest for freedom can rest. It is also a place of pilgrimage, renewal and hope for all South Africans and mankind.
Situated on Salvokop in Tshwane, it was conceived as a narrative, a ‘journey to freedom’ informed by traditional African culture and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) that have not been acknowledged through past knowledge or records. Five key elements, //hapo, Isivivane, S’khumbuto, Moshate, and Tiva form the basis of this narrative and are linked by a pathway system that winds its way up the hill.
Through rehabilitation and conservation, the landscape intervention heals the original scars of the site and symbolically, of history. As the new planting grows in, the architectural elements of The Freedom Park will appear as to emerge from the hill and be one with it – like much of historic African interventions such as Great Zimbabwe and Thulamela.
One of the design challenges was to introduce people to African culture, symbolism and spiritual meaning through a landscape narrative that expresses the place in an abstract and inclusive manner – so as not to alienate any one cultural group. An example of this is the project’s main iconic component, a rising line of stainless steel reeds which embrace the hill and give a sense of progress in the struggle for freedom while celebrating a hope for the future. They were derived from the African philosophy of creation that acknowledges reeds as the conduit to life and symbolise communication between earth and heaven. Just as importantly, these sculptures had to consider their relationship to landscape, the project’s content and the visual manifestation of ‘monument,’ and epitomise the opportunities and restrictions inherent in the blurring of landscape, art and architecture.