"Malapa" Hominid Fossil Site Cover + Visitors' Platform

Structural Designer

Fellows Consulting

Client Name

University of the Witwatersrand


Johannesburg, South Africa

Krynauw Nel Associates
Crane QS
Craig Harrison PM
Spiral Engineering
KRU Detailing
Mzekizeki Painters


“Australopithecus sediba” – arguably the most important hominid fossil - was discovered at "Malapa", a sensitive game reserve and UNESCO Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. This small, steel, insect-like structure is designed to be a lightweight, 85% recyclable platform for visitors to the location, and for a one ton manual crane used by scientists to inspect the site. To preserve the site no foundations were permitted, and suitable rock footings for the platform ‘legs’ could only be approved by scientists during construction – ensuring that it does not damage the sensitive area even after it is removed.

Judge's comment:

The judges were particularly enthusiastic about the imaginative and innovative way in which the structural engineers minimised this building's impact on its surroundings by creating an adjustable framing system that bears onto naturally-occurring rock formations, thus obviating the need for additional 'man-made' foundations. The visually striking insect-like form touches the Earth so lightly that it barely touches it at all, while also exploring the intellectually challenging concept of how to design a structure when the initial site layout is unknown and is expected to change over time.

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Telephone: +44 (0)20 7235 4535
Email: [email protected]

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