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Siyathemba

SWEE_Winner1st Placed Finalist
Swee Hong Ng Pittsburgh, PA. United States

Launched in 2004, the “Siyathemba” competition challenged the world’s designers to create the “perfect pitch,” for the youth of Somkhele, South Africa, who are three times more likely to become HIV positive than youth in other parts of the world. (Siyathemba means “we hope” in IsiZulu.) In addition to serving as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9-14, the facilty will double as a health outreach center. The pitch will also be home to the area’s first girls’ football league.

On World Aids Day, (December 1, 2004), the jury, which included, Paola Antonelli, curator of the Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, award-winning designer Yves Behar and Survivor: Africawinner and former pro-footballer Ethan Zohn, selected nine finalists and sixteen honorable mentions. Finalists included established architects as well as young emerging designers from across the globe. Austria, Chile, England, France, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States were all represented.

The finalists’ schemes were displayed in schools and health centers throughout the area. Somkhele community members, including students, youth football players, nurses and teachers, then selected the scheme by Mr. Swee Hong Ng as the winning design. (The team of David Mathias and Tim Denis of Basildon, England placed second and the Swiss based team of Guy Lafranchi and Dietmar Panzenbock placed third.)

Swee Hong Ng, 29, is an emerging architect completing his licensing with EDGE studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. “The design utilizes the natural asset of earth to create terraces that emulate the gentle flow of the area’s landscape,” explained the Singapore-born designer. “The pair of “V” shaped terraces create a focal point similar to an outdoor amphitheatre, where performances, talks and other events may be hosted.” The terraces are constructed from earth and adobe brick and paved with concrete for seats.

In June, Mr. Ng traveled to South Africa and collaborated with the young women from the newly formed Siyathemba football club, community members, health care providers, teachers and others to further refine and develop his scheme. The facility will be built in collaboration with architect Steve Kinsler of East Coast Architects, who will be acting as site architect on the project, and community members. Construction is scheduled to begin later in the year.

HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in South Africa according to studies released by the South African Medical Research Council. In Kwa-Zulu Natal, the hardest hit province according to the report, studies show that the pandemic accounts for 42 percent of all deaths. At the center of this crisis are the region’s youth, and in particular, its future mothers—girls ages 9-14.

Siyathemba offers a unique opportunity to bring together the positive aspects of sports with an innovative health outreach program in a setting designed with and for the youth of Somkhele. Football, already the nation’s most popular sport, will only gain in popularity and interest when the World Cup comes to South Africa in 2010. By emphasizing a team approach, it is hoped that Siyathemba will be a field of hope, a place where the area’s health care professionals and its future leaders can come together.

Siyathemba youth football pitch: a stage for community gatherings

The Siyathemba football pitch is envisioned as a stage for events. The design aspires to create a space that will bring the community together in participation and celebration.

The proposed design utilizes the natural asset of earth to create terraces that emulate the gentle flow of the area’s landscape. These terraces provide a spatial enclosure and emphasize the ambience of the pitch. The openness at both ends facilitates a visual engagement with the community, while the seating terrace acts as a “billboard,” inviting onlookers to participate. ­

The pair of “V” shaped earth terraces is designed to create a focal point similar to an outdoor amphitheatre, where talks and information dissemination may be conducted. They are constructed from earth and adobe brick and paved with concrete for seats.

The provision of a shade canopy with timber frame and textile fabric contributed by community members further reinforces the communal nature and identity of the pitch. It is hoped that the community will participate in the production and continued renewal of these fabric canopies to bring changing color and vibrancy to the space.

Bio:

Swee Hong Ng was born in Singapore in 1976. In 2000, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Architecture at the National University of Singapore where he received numerous honors and awards. A one year exchange program to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (USA), in 2001 opened up an opportunity to purse his architectural interests in the United States. Upon graduation from the National University of Singapore with a Masters degree in Architecture in 2003, he began his career at EDGE studio, an architectural firm in Pittsburgh, where he is currently working. He has been actively involved in numerous award-winning commercial and public projects.

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