Working with the UK charity Dramatic Need, PLP Architecture has designed a new community arts centre in Viljoenskroon, south of Johannesburg, in South Africa. The charity, which recognises the value of the arts to education and humanitarianism, invites international and local artists to volunteer their professional skills and expertise to help make a difference to the lives of children in some of the most impoverished and isolated parts of of the country.
The centre, which is the charity’s most ambitious project to date, forms a base for its achievements among the region’s remote farm schools and provides facilities for a range of dance, drama, film, music and visual arts workshops. The arts education programme aims to develop and nurture the talents and abilities of those children faced with challenging circumstances, deprivation, illness or conflict and helps to foster self-confidence and encourage positive and creative self-expression rather than aggression or violence. The children, too, have contributed to the design of the centre; creating murals on the interior walls and floors and participating with the Johannesburg-based landscape architect to shape and plant the surrounding grounds.
Situated within a small maize and stud cattle-farming town, the arts centre is dedicated to the late Piet Patsa, a respected teacher at the site’s former school and an advocate of Dramatic Need and its volunteers and students. The centre’s three buildings, all built with recycled and sustainable materials comprise a dance and drama studio, a film and music suite with basic editing and screening facilities and a space for arts and crafts, also equipped with sewing machines for the local women.
The charity’s Official Patron is Her Excellency Dr Lindiwe Mabuza, South African High Commissioner to the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. The Board of Trustees includes the Oscar-winning film director Danny Boyle and South African-born actor Sir Antony Sher.