PG Bison Comp: The Urban Amp

Every year PG Bison™  has a nation-wide competition regarding some sort of architectural challenge.  This year (2018), the competition is all about the Old Coke House within the historic Johannesburg Gas Works Complex.

The Johannesburg Gas Works once supplied the gold mines with gas, a part of Johannesburg’s legacy, but today is merely a structure reminding of an industry that no longer represents the city.  Once a monument to the Zeitgeist of Johannesburg, today this historic building is to be re-developed, incorporating the new thinking behind a modern city and converting it into a beacon that encourages community interaction, historic architectural preservation, environmental awareness and healthy living.

Project Brief:

The new icon will house a modern multipurpose exhibition space, focused on human interaction and showcasing a changing seasonal display of art and design.   Your contextual research should determine and respond to what uses the multi-functional exhibit space can be used for: art, sculpture, performance, dance, fashion, product launches, corporate events, or more.  The opening exhibit will be the launch event for a global theatre and performance brand of your choice.  The brand’s main show will take place at various theatres throughout South Africa, but the company wishes to have their grand unveiling event and exhibition in the ‘newly redeveloped’ Coke House.  Parts of the building’s original architecture are to be preserved, referencing the historical essence that was the Gas Works, the steel construction, and masterful brick laying. Considering both natural and artificial lighting, modern innovation and materials are encouraged, with the level of technological engagement (or dis-engagement) within the space being your decision.  Night or day, the building should stand as a focal point, responding to its environment and represent an ever changing and forward-thinking Johannesburg.

The Design Response – Analysis:

The above brief was given to us (and is still available on the PG Bison™  website) along with rudimentary floorplans and elevations.  It was on to research from that point on and knowing very little about Jo’burg I had no other options but to ask my fellow students about the area and the rich culture (which I clearly wasn’t aware of) flowing through the mother city’s streets.

Johannesburg is home to an extensive portfolio of public art.  A diverse and evolving city, Johannesburg boasts a vibrant art scene and a variety of works that range from sculptures to murals to pieces by internationally renowned artists.  Many pieces are developed through community workshops, such as the Vilakazi Street sculptures.  Others are functional, such as street furniture found in the city centre.


The notion for a building that strengthens the people it serves has come forward through means of a megaphone.  Like a megaphone, The Urban Amp amplifies.  It’s main focus is the arts as that is it’s main function; however, it does act as an urban gathering space – an iconic piece of structure made to be used and explored by people.  It amplifies urban arts and culture as well as many local crafts otherwise unknown to the general public.  The Urban Amp also serves to enrich, develop and expand general urbanism culture – street life living.

URBAN AMP

The Design:

COKE - URBAN AMP 011COKE - URBAN AMP 022COKE - URBAN AMP 033

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