Maropeng Visitor Centre, Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, South Africa | 2017
Stone Park is a newly developed picnic and gathering area, at the Maropeng Visitor Centre, located in the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site outside Johannesburg, South Africa. The design was informed by the theme of human impact and aims to challenge typical museum mechanisms of explanation. Human impact is portrayed by two carefully placed stone narratives within the space: a sculpture representing an oversized, archaeological stone tool and a contemporary stone seating ring.
To the north, a sheltered oval lawn for picnicking and events, is embraced by a curved line of trees. They form a protective threshold, but also allow for framed views towards the Tumulus (museum) and the untouched grassland surrounding it. The southern edge is enclosed by a sculpted earth embankment, which could be utilized as an amphitheater for outdoor events. The formal planting of several small ‘cathedrals’ of trees, create protected pockets of calmness in an otherwise windswept landscape.
The planting palette reflects and complements the biodiversity of the Bankenveld biome in which the site is situated. Intensive planting is restricted to the outside of the earth embankment, where the closely planted trees will grow into a small forest; the temporary flowering annuals will be overtaken by indigenous grasses – eventually the natural landscape and the insertions will be woven together.
Over time, the human impact on this site could be erased by natural decay and growth. The remains of the stone seating ring and the tree ‘cathedrals’ could become the sole evidence of human interference, much like the stone tools of our forebears used there millennia ago.