Liliesleaf Legacy Project
Liliesleaf Farm The white-owned Liliesleaf Farm was the secret headquarters of the African National Congress’ armed wing Umkhonto we-Sizwe (Spear of the Nation) in Apartheid South Africa in the 1960’s. A police raid in 1963 led to the arrest and eventual incarceration of the eleven Rivonia Trialists, including amongst others, Nelson Mandela. The architectural competition to develop the site as a memorial, was won by Mashabane Rose Associates in 2003 and the project was unveiled to the public in June 2008. The complex comprises of a visitor centre and a resource centre each located on opposite boundaries of the site, forming a protective threshold between the streets and the historical buildings – the restored Manor House and farm outbuildings, which have been converted into an interactive museum exhibit. Archaeological Process Since the raid, Rivonia shifted from farmland to a fashionable residential suburb. The original outbuildings (including a room inhabited by Mandela, posing as the gardener ‘David’) had been swallowed by new houses. Police photographs taken at the time of the raid provided a good visual record of the original precinct. Through a careful process of archaeological uncovering, the bones of the original structures were revealed underneath layers of newer buildings. In order to remain true to the historical findings, the remainders of these significant brick structures were completed with contemporary materials such as glass and off-shutter concrete so that there was always a clear distinction between old and new. Contemporary buildings in the historical landscape The new structures make use of a similar palette of materials (facebrick, glass and concrete) and seek a silent backdrop in the historical landscape. Located on the site boundary, the visitor centre screens the historical structures until visitors enter through the shaded arrival courtyard and the full view of the precinct is revealed. An introductory film in the auditorium sets the mood and visitors move through the manor house and outbuildings following the story of the Rivonia Trial. Large format photographs from the police raid are positioned in the landscape around the buildings. The architectural language of the contemporary buildings makes a strong reference to the architecture of the small brick outbuildings in an effort to maintain a strong visual connection. Simple, lawned landscaping around the manor house is juxtaposed with the long indigenous highveld gasses around the farm buildings, and this is brought onto the roof of the visitor centre to minimize the visual impact. The understated design interventions in this historical context, creates a contemplative and emotional place of silence. Today Liliesleaf stands as a testimony to the handful of courageous and unique individuals who stood together against all odds during the 1960s to change and challenge the oppressive apartheid regime.


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Building Activity

  • OpenBuildings
    OpenBuildings added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via
  • added a digital reference
    about 6 years ago via