"This is the beginning for us as architects in Botswana to search for an architectural language that embodies who we are as a people and as a culture, using our past to define our contemporary condition."
These are the inspiring words of Beullah Serema, a young Motswana architect who has just won a global design award for her impressive restoration works on the Old Palapye Church ruins.
Serema, who hails from Palapye but currently studying in Japan, got the bronze award in the prestigious 2018-2019 A’Design Awards and Competition for designers and innovators on her proposed ‘Old Palapye Museum Historic Building Preservation Museum’.
The project is listed as a Winner in the hotly contested Architecture, Building and Structure Design Category, 2018 – 2019.
Describing the winning project Serema said, “the design considered keeping the [Old Palapye church] ruins in their original state. Therefore a structural steel framework was introduced to rebuilt the old structure of the church by referring to its old photos”.
She expertly reconstructed the collapsed structures of the old church with modern materials including steel and glass that left the church ruins look both ancient and contemporary.
“The height, form, windows of the old church were reconstructed with modern materials – corten steel to represent the hue of the burnt brick ruins and for the wall enclosure, steel for the structural frame and metal roofing.
The metal roofing is patterned with the traditional pattern of the old royal house/homestead,” described Serema. She said the principal design intention was “to preserve the historical heritage of the ruins by adding a contemporary feel and simultaneously breathing new life into it, therefore highlighting the contrast between old and new.”
Serema also said she envisions a museum that tells the history of Bogosi and European missionaries that occupied and used the abandoned old church.
She imagines the new museum to be used as an exhibition space for new and old artworks for the region. On her A’Design award, she said it is a major vote of confidence for Batswana architects that they too could compete in a global scale and so they should be entrusted to lead Botswana in the transformation of the country’s architectural landscape.
“Once we can be trusted with that responsibility from the public, we can transform our architectural landscape into something textured and rich that represents us, Batswana. We need public to believe in us and that we have the creative capability to execute innovative works. This award is a testament of that, being recognized on a global platform,” said Serema.
Old Palapye Church was built in 1894 and abandoned eight years later under mysterious circumstances when Bangwato relocated their capital to Serowe in 1902. The site is now a national monument under the care of government through the Botswana National Museums. Serema’s biggest wish is for the authorities to consider her award-winning concept.