Pittsburgh architect wins international Siyathemba competition

Siyathemba Consultants, the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies and Architecture for Humanity are pleased to announce that Swee Hong Ng is the winner of the Siyathemba design competition. Ng will be collaborating with the community and local architects to design and build a sports and HIV/AIDS outreach center in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, an area with one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. Ng’s design was selected by an international jury and the youth of Somkhele from more than 300 entries received from around the world.

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 is the Zulu word for “hope.” In addition to serving as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9-14 and a health education/training centre, 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: Africa winner 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 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. “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, Ng will travel to South Africa to collaborate with girls 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.

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.

Funding Partners include the American Society of Interior Design, Herman Miller, Interior Design magazine, and the Red Rubber Ball Foundation. Project Partners include Siyathemba Consultants, Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, East Coast Architects, Architecture for Humanity.

For more information, please visit www.architectureforhumanity.org