Spatial Agency: a new Frontier for South Africa's Space Program

David, Rory Llewellyn
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Although many people are unaware of its existence or purpose, South Africa has a space program. With the prevailing advancements in international space research and development, now is a convenient time for South Africa to cement itself in the eyes of the world as a contender in space research and exploration. For us to successfully evolve our space program, and therefore grow our technological advances for the future, we have to approach research and public involvement in a new way. The aim of “Spatial Agency” is to provide a springboard to launch a new era in South Africa’s space-related technology research, education and spread of information. This research report will aim to create a framework that can be used to design a research centre that can catalyse the country’s satellite industry, as well as inform the design of a platform for public engagement. A new satellite research, development and visitor’s centre will be designed to allow the astronomy and space research to be approachable, exciting and contemporary. It will also set a precedent for how the South African National Space Agency can approach public engagement and eduction. This new space centre needs to be close to the city to facilitate public engagement. Because of the focus of technology research and development over astronomical observations, radio and light pollution from the city will not affect the work that researchers are doing on-site. Because of the focus on public engagement, the site should have a certain standing in the public eye as an available public site. Due to its historical value, the publicness as mentioned earlier and the amount of open space on the site, the Johannesburg Observatory in Observatory, Johannesburg is the ideal site for this scheme. This scheme should frame space as an approachable subject to which all humans are instinctively drawn. This could be done by learning from humankind’s history with merging architecture and astronomy and designing the building with such precedents in mind. The new space centre and, ultimately, the redesign of the space program will allow South Africa to take steps towards becoming one of the world’s contenders in the new space race and will ultimately bolster the country’s economy and technological development.
This document is submitted in partial fulfillment of the degree Master of Architecture (Professional) at the University of the Witwatersrand