Tshwane's Freedom Park

Text Graham Wood Styling Leana Schoeman Photographs Mark Lanning On one side of the highway at the gateway to Tshwane is the Voortrekker Monument. On the other, along the quartzite ridge of Salvokop, is a revolutionary new kind of monument: Freedom Park. It is the government’s most profound and ambitious attempt so far to create a place of memory and reconciliation – a monument that bears witness to the past, a shrine to those who died in various historical conflicts, and an attempt to harness the power of a place to foster a national consciousness. Essentially, Freedom Park is, as its chief patron Nelson Mandela put it, ‘a people’s shrine’. It is a place of pilgrimage, a cultural resource and a venue for significant national events. It was originally conceived in 2000 as a National Heritage Project, and the final phases of the project are currently nearing completion. //hapo is a copper-clad boulder-like structure that houses a museum, knowledge centre and archive. (//hapo means dream, which refers to the Khoi proverb: ‘A dream is not a dream until it is shared by the entire community.’) The building’s design was a joint venture between Mashabane Rose Architects, GAPP Architects and Urban Designers, and MMA Architects. It continues Freedom Park’s profound use of landscape in its relation to architecture and memory, and cleverly incorporates indigenous cultural references and powerful symbolic meanings. The architecture is deeply influenced by – almost an extension of – the landscape. Its stylised boulders have developed a natural patina and blend with the landscape. The poet and author Anne Michaels writes in her novel The Winter Vault that ‘some places make certain things possible’. She continues: ‘I know that when I am in a great building … [afterwards] I see everything around me with a clarity that only the experience of the building could bestow on me.’ //hapo at Freedom Park is that kind of place – a subtle and powerful humanitarian icon that uses the power of place, history and memory to create clarity and possibility. Freedom Park is open to the public and tours take place daily at 9am, 12pm and 3pm. This was originally featured in the September 2010 issue of House and Leisure.