RLS worked closely with GREENInc, a landscape architectural practice, to create an eye-catching and thought-provoking picnic and event space at the official visitor centre of Maropeng’s Cradle of Humankind.
The centre is currently undergoing a landscaping upgrade by adding the picnic site as an additional attraction for local and international tourists. Against a scenic backdrop of indigenous trees, the site will contain aggregate pathways, sculptures, benches, and picnic areas for use by the public.
“The brief from government was to design three picnic sites that would function as an extension of the current museum experience,” explains GREENInc’s Wallace Honiball. “For the Human Impact site, now named Stone Park, we did not want to overburden the space with content, so we created a spatial experience by introducing a man-made oval sculpture into the natural environment. The result is a contemplative space where visitors can engage with the theme of human impact.”
Two exhibition items were designed for the space; a set of stone tool sculptures and a semi-circle ring of asymmetric sliding rectangles and circles. Designed by architect Nabeel Essa from Office 24/7, the stone tool sculptures are placed at the entrance to the site. The second sculpture is the focal point of the site and functions as a seating ring for picnics or events, where more than 200 custom-designed and cut unpolished Rustenburg granite blocks, each of a different size, make up the ovular sculptural seating.
An important aspect of the project was the lighting, which would allow Maropeng to extend the use of the space. Having worked successfully with RLS on a number of successful projects, GREENInc approached the company to assist with the lighting design at Maropeng.
To limit light pollution, the standard Piazza bollard (an elegant upstand light with low downlighting) was used along the walkways leading to the site and to light the sculptures at the entrance.
The lighting that captures the attention of most visitors, however, is the lighting solution designed for the seating ring. Because the diameter of ring is 30 m, something with a bit of a punch was needed to create the desired effect and since no standard light fitting was available to suit the purpose, the RLS team repurposed a wall washer fitting (designed to wash the façade of a building with light) using a stand and baseplate to ensure its integrity, and set a total of 27 fittings 30 cm back from the ring to provide the desired strips of light through the gaps as well as reflective light, which bounces back off the ring. The effect is captivating – the beams of light cross in the centre of the ring and spill upwards to highlight the 3 m raised berm.
It is this ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that has seen RLS find solutions for a multitude of problems. The light fitting used was from its Vala range. With an LM 6 die cast aluminium and extruded aluminium housing, the fitting is designed to operate a range of LEDs up to 48 W. Mott MacDonald Consulting Engineers Africa, the electrical engineers on the project, worked closely with RLS and GREENInc to make the design work in practice.
The lights are on day/night switches as well as being on different circuits, so they can be switched on and off depending on the requirements of the events, and they are all set on a dimmer. The control gear used is DALI, which allows for dimming of LEDs. It is currently programmed to be able to dim at four different light levels via four push buttons, but DALI allows for future upgrades such as daylight harvesting and motion control. DALI also creates potential for connectivity, for added flexibility; smart devices can be connected to the system to make lighting control a lot easier.