Red Location Museum, Port Elizabeth – Noero Wolff

Red Location Museum – Port Elizabeth – South Africa
by Noero Architects

Red Location was one of the main scenes of the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa and home to several freedom fighters. Also one of the oldest townships of Port Elizabeth, it is the place where the military wing of the ANC was established and where the first arrest in the Defiance Campaign, 1952 occurred. Chosen for its history, Red Location becomes the place to ‘portray the horrors of Institutionalized Racism and the heroic struggles of the Anti-Apartheid movement aimed at liberating the oppressed people.’
The Museum, designed by Noero Wolff Architects, targets the history of apartheid and the atrocities it caused. Conceived as one of the industrial buildings surrounding the settlement, the exterior is rather austere, with small interventions to articulate the public space around the introverted monoblock. On the inside however, the structure becomes a container, housing a collection of memories and stories of the struggle in South Africa. 12 identical, rusted corrugated steel boxes, 6 meter by 6 meter and 12 meters tall, arrayed in a grid, resemble oversized shacks, like a deconstruction of an otherwise familiar view of the informal dwellings, extravagantly exaggerated to monumental structures. While the township is a crowded juxtaposition of elements, the museum is taking it apart, element by element, depicting each story on its own through the oversized memory boxes, like the ones migrant workers used to for their possessions when separated from their families. Every box means a separate experience but the stories are inexorably connected through the interstitial space as a result of their juxtaposition. The in-between encourages introversion, without distractions, defining a space of reflection.

August 2009