Common Ground/Different Worlds
by Noero Architects

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This movie by filmmakers Stretch documents the ongoing work by Cape Town studio Noero Architects to create a cultural centre within the barracks of Port Elizabeth that were once used as a concentration camp.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

The barracks were dismantled and reassembled in Red Location Precinct after the Boer War, before becoming the first community of black African families in South Africa during the racial segregation at the start of the twentieth century.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

Noero Architects have designed a complex centred around a museum for the centre of the historic settlement, which is under construction and due for completion in 2022.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

"We thought, what better place in Port Elizabeth than to use Red Location as the new cultural centre of the city?" explained Jo Noero. "Where you could bring together the histories of the Afrikaner people and the histories of the black African people and show that they both suffered in different ways at different times, under different groups and regimes. In a way it was about talking about a real form of reconciliation."

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

The movie was completed after the opening of the exhibition and shows some of the completed buildings of the project and how they fit in amongst the existing urban fabric.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

"The best public space in South Africa is the street and the way in which life happens along its edges," said Noero. "What we did at Red Location was to reinforce the idea of street and where we make bigger spaces we simply created indentations in the buildings which come directly off the street".

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

Plan detail - click above for larger image

Noero has also produced a nine-metre-long, hand-drawn plan to illustrate the proposals, which he is presenting at the Venice Architecture Biennale.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

When discussing the use of hand drawings, Noero said "there is nothing that the computer can do that can replicate that sense of control that you have by drawing by hand. When you draw by the hand you connect with your mind and your heart, and it is an action that you can control."

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

See more stories from the Venice Architecture Biennale »

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

Here's a few lines of text about the exhibition:


“South African Architect Jo Noero’s work has always been sensitive to the divided and contested urban conditions of his country’s cities, and his installation here reflects thus through two powerful artworks.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

Above: exhibition at the Arsenale Corderie

One is a 9m-long hand drawing, depicting at 1:100 the Red Location Precinct in Port Elizabeth, a project that proposes common ground in a city torn apart by the urbanistic consequences of apartheid. Next to it is the artwork Keiskamma Guernica, a tapestry made by fifty women from the Hamburg Women’s Co-operative from the Eastern Cape.

Common Ground Different Worlds by Noero Architects

Above: exhibition at the Arsenale Corderie

These two meticulous, labour-intensive works are contrasting and complementary pieces of evidence of an urban condition where common ground is not easily achieved.”

  • Nick Pocock

    Haunting, some of the best renders I’ve seen, but the fact that they still prop hand drawing wins it for me. Very tricky programme too with the context/history, great work.