SHoP Architects — one of Fast Company’s 2010 Most Innovative Companies — has won a competition to design a colossal $50 million science and tech park in Botswana. A project initiated by the Botswanan government, the park is expected to catapult this nation built on diamonds and beef into the 21st century.
The Botswana Innovation Hub is designed to throw start-ups, global corporations, and research and health organizations under one massive green roof stretched long and low over part of a 57-hectare site of barren veldt in the capital city of Gaborone. The design is a clutch of lean volumes reminiscent of sand dunes that link via bridges to create an intimate community (or as intimate as you can get in 270,000 square feet). A raft of green technologies, from rain water collectors to photovoltaic cells, will help the building achieve LEED certification, a first in Botswana. This is sexy stuff — sexy enough, the hope goes, to attract outsiders to what’s effectively the middle of corporate-nowhere.
And the rhetoric here is irresistible to the West: A nation rich in natural, but ultimately limited, resources wants to convert to a knowledge-based economy and uses starchitecture, that evergreen symbol of institutional greatness, to literally cultivate its ambitions. The question, of course, is whether it’ll work — or just end up a white elephant like some other places we’ve heard about nearby.
(Photo’s & Text courtesy of E-Architect)