A first of its kind on the African continent, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library (TMPL) is another expression of partnership between the University of South Africa (UNISA) and the Thabo Mbeki Foundation. It aims to be an African Centre of Excellence in learning, research and discourse for the transformation of Africa.

It will connect to similar centres on the globe, whose aim is to drive advances towards the Renaissance and unity of Africa. It will be a repository of former President Thabo Mbeki’s documents, papers, artefacts and all materials. TMPL is intended to become a “living library and museum”, which will not only focus on the life and times of former President Mbeki, but also on the larger context in which President Mbeki’s activities took place.

The TMPL will invoke a strong sense of Africa – this iconic building is to become the epicentre of the African identity, a space that encourages its visitors to explore and learn about Africa and to inspire future generations to seek to understand what it truly means to be an African.

The life and times of President Mbeki, and other African leaders, represent unique opportunities to examine the history of the liberation of Africa, and define the future of Africa.

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library would therefore be:

  • A centre of excellence in African knowledge
  • A place for African scholarship
  • An interactive space for reflection
  • An accessible centre of knowledge
  • A place where Africans get to know and write their own history
  • A place to learn what shaped the society that we currently live in
  • A centre for inter-generational engagement
  • A place where the world and African diaspora will better understand Africa
  • A place where people get to understand President Mbeki and the ideas that shaped his thinking, and
  • A place for personal reflection and connecting with self through cultural and other activities.
The TMF and UNISA has, while awaiting the building of a permanent home for the TMPL, created a prototype of the Library. The prototype, which houses some of President Mbeki’s material, is hosted at the UNISA main campus in Pretoria. Since its launch, the prototype TMPL has a high number of visitors on a regular basis, consisting of journalists, policy makers, publishers, researchers and students, local and abroad. To date, over 15 000 visitors have been logged onto the TMPL database. To ensure the success of this effort, we are proud that we have been joined by the world-renowned African Architect, Sir David Adjaye as the leader of the architectural design process.
Sir David Adjaye will be complimented by a professional team comprised of highly knowledgeable local and international professionals who bring with them many years of experience and skills in the built environment industry.

"...The Thabo Mbeki Centre presents an opportunity to realize the ambition of the dreams of President Thabo Mbeki to advance and empower an African renaissance. The architecture of the Library taps into the collective memory of the continent through the establishment of a new historical centre for African consciousness in which knowledge, education and sustenance are nurtured in the representation and intelligence of the continent..."

– Sir David Adjaye OBE

The Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library

Project Narrative

Located in Johannesburg, the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library is a space of excellence, learning, research, discourse and cultural exchange predicated on the African perspective. The new Library will feature a multiplicity of functions including a museum, temporary exhibition space, research center and special collections, auditorium, women’s empowerment center, reading room, shop, cafeteria, digital experience space, seminar rooms, office space and an archive center. 

The archive center will act as a repository for the papers, artifacts and key documents of President Mbeki and other significant African historical figures. Providing infrastructure for the preservation and distribution of African history and knowledge, the Library will become a new anchorpoint and campus for local and international scholars.

Design Concept

Conceptually, the new building makes visible the invisible knowledge of ancient and contemporary African history through both form and program. Sited in Riviera, Johannesburg, the Library will harbour the knowledge of the land whilst acting as a space for connection in which the advancement of an African Renaissance becomes the premise of the structure. Represented in design as a metaphor for knowledgebased

nourishment, the new building references the structures of granaries — which allow for the extension of grain production and the systematization of cycles of feeding, planting and harvesting.

Floor Plan Layouts

Roof View
Lower Level

Using architecture as a tool to reimagine storage and sustenance into form, the granary stores guide the overall building concept. The eight cylindrical granary-styled forms are made contemporary through the topping of domes with apertures that take into consideration the solar orientation of light within the site to create a distinct atmosphere for each of the programs within. 

The internal infrastructure of these chambers see to it that the building accommodates a multiplicity of programmatic functions. They are connected through an ‘indoor den’ — a horizontal interstitial space that extends the length of the entire building to provide a new public space in service to the community.

Ground Floor Level

"...My vision for the new presidential library aims to encompass both an African past and an African future. It will be a place where Africans uncover their own history and identity. A place where we are empowered to script a brighter and more prosperous future. Through this wonderful collaboration with Sir David Adjaye and his team, I believe this building will become the epicentre for an African renaissance — a place of pride, celebration and futureforward thinking in which a strong sense of the African identity is empowered for further leadership in service to humanity...."

– President Thabo Mbeki

Use of the locally sourced compressed mud in the form of a rammed earth facade, terrazzo flooring made from local stone and timber cladding from local wood species collectively reduce the overall carbon footprint of the structure. Through a site-specific understanding of the subtropical highland climate of Johannesburg, solar harvesting is utilized through state of the art photo-voltaic solar panels, located on the rooftop absorbing sunlight and generating electricity. Geothermal heating and thickened walls harness the earth’s energy by storing heat during the day and releasing it later at night to warm the building when temperatures drop.

The architecture of the Thabo Mbeki Presidential Library brings together continental African thought and form as a powerful means of tapping into collective memory. 

This memory, embedded within the intelligence of the African consciousness, now sees a typology of learning and a typology of sustenance materialize into form.

Use of the locally sourced compressed mud in the form of a rammed earth facade, terrazzo flooring made from local stone and timber cladding from local wood species collectively reduce the overall carbon footprint of the structure. Through a site-specific understanding of the subtropical highland climate of Johannesburg, solar harvesting is utilized through state of the art photo-voltaic solar panels, located on the rooftop absorbing sunlight and generating electricity. Geothermal heating and thickened walls harness the earth’s energy by storing heat during the day and releasing it later at night to warm the building when temperatures drop.