Completed in 2010, Nike Football Training Centre in Soweto soon grew to be the most utilized training ground of its kind, needing expansion and alterations. Thereafter C76 Architects; collaborating alongside Nike SA and JHB based Futura Design Agency, was tasked with revamping the center now called Shapa Soweto to continue to ignite the national soccer scene and evolve the center into an innovative multi-sport facility and vibrant local community hub.
The center aims to be self-sustainable & robust, built with maintainable materials selected purposefully for the project's longevity and overall future lifespan. Following comprehensive community research, the renovated design attracts engagement beyond sports - as a safe and freely accessible asset not currently found in the area.
In approaching the design, C76 sought form an authentic identity - incorporating local materiality and textures of concrete, rammed earth, stone and glass to reflect and blend into the contexts of place and culture - the intervention has been designed with, and for Soweto; expressing a 'rough diamond ' sense of untapped potential - encouraging engagement with, and ownership of the space.
The renovation adds a new 'social yard' - a professionally designed skate park, basketball courts, 5-a-side soccer fields, athletics oval and a cross country running track surrounding the center. To better integrate visibly and allow open access, the main entrance has moved to the South Elevation - connecting directly to Chris Hani Road. With thoughtfully placed entries and exits, traditional ideas of enclosure, safety and the standard South African typology of high boundary walls creating separation and disconnection are rejected rethinking the status quo. The new and inviting thresholds allows the center to connect and reach into the community both visibly and physically. The wheelchair friendly and secure multi-sport yard now welcomes social activation, encouraging economic and entrepreneurial participation through food kiosks selling healthy produce grown in the facility’s gardens.
Socially-driven programming and landscaping transform the dusty external built-environment into a green escape. An expansive shade canopy and several newly planted trees will grow to organically soften the multi-sport courtyard and seating into an urban park- dappling the harsh African sunlight akin to being under a leafy communal canopy. The carefully designed shading structure layers 4m tiles of structural steel rebar in three dimensions parametrically following the path of the sun, filtering through triangular patterns angled to Nike's iconic 'swoosh'. The shadows cast add a new dimensionality to the surfaces below; echoing the humble materiality and geometries of African weaving and latticework tradition.
The use of rebar for the canopy tiles, a material usually hidden and visually underrated turned into the main design feature of the renovation indicating how considered and cost-effective design does not need to compromise of aesthetics.
Connecting through thresholds such as skylights and stairs; these patterns, angles and materials continue into the building itself- a vernacular palette of regional textures, colours and tone shaping the architectural tectonics, space and light.
The visual language and architectural graphics flow into the building, Modular facilities have been added throughout. The ground-floor adds flexible, multivalent recreational and event spaces, energized and flanked by new and unique artworks and photos of local sport stars. Public leisure and work spaces are joined with classrooms a new maker's space and studio fitted with the latest tech to encourage creativity and foster exploration. Upstairs, adaptable dance and boxing studios join the administration and office level.
This project has revitalised the facility - updating the lower ground floor with public facilities, custom designed locker and team strategy rooms, male and female shower facilities and the players tunnel for the contenders to run out to field. Coach and team canopies have been installed on field, with raised earth spectator stands surrounding the various facilities with updated public ablutions and social areas. Other editions include a 1mile cross-country track around the entire complex as well as a 400m athletics track.
Bringing together the collective notions of sport and community through architecture and design, the facility celebrates the proud energies of Soweto and its people. A Home not only for aspiring sport stars, but a haven accessible to all - inviting local social, educational and creative contexts and opportunities to emerge and thrive