The Red Location Museum of the People's Struggle in New Brighton, Port Elizabeth - winner of three international awards - was designed to be both a Monument to South Africa's struggle against Apartheid and an integral part of community life in a township that acted as a crucible for the struggle. The museum is located in the Red Location shack settlement, New Brighton's oldest neighbourhood, this was the scene of one of the first public acts of defiance against Apartheid. When, in 1952, Black Railway Workers, refused to show their 'passes' to enter Railway Property.
The Building was designed by Cape Town-based architect Jo Noero, of Noero Architects. The concept was inspired by the literary work of German-born professor Andreas Huyssen, whose work focuses on the idea of Memory and History. It challenges the traditional notions of Museum design. Instead of being treated as mere consumers of information, as in the case of conventional Museums, visitors are encouraged to actively participate in the experience and navigate through it as they please with no set path.
Construction reportedly cost R22-million and the Municipality was believed to be spending R300 000 a month on operating costs. Similar to the surrounding Informal Settlements, the Museum is made of corrugated iron boxes (12 in total) that are 6 x 6 x 12 metres.
The Museum houses an Auditorium, Library, art Gallery, a memorial space honouring local Heroes of the Liberation struggle and offices. There were plans of erecting an adjoining tomb where struggle heroes Raymond Mhlaba and Govan Mbeki would be buried, but this was not seen to completion when the Heroes’ Families refused to have the bodies exhumed.The use of boxes was inspired by the boxes that Migrant Worker used to keep their treasured possessions when they were away from their families in Rural Areas.
Over the years, Noero Wolff Architects collected numerous Awards for their work on the Museum. In 2005, the building won the World Leadership Award for Public Architecture in London at the World Leadership Forum. The Royal Institute of British Architects International Award and the Dedallo Minosse Presidents Award from Italy were added to its accolades in 2006. In 2010, it was named the Most Outstanding Building Outside the EU by the Royal Institute of British Architects when it received the Lubetkin Prize. It won the Icon Building of the Year Award from Icon in London in 2012.
However, there was much public reasistance and on, October 2013, after protests from Red Location residents over Housing issues, the Museum, Library and Gallery were closed. IT HAS REMAINED CLOSED, SINCE. The residents demanded that the Government fix their poorly constructed Homes which had been declared structurally unsound. After the Museum’s closure in 2013, the Government and the Community reached an agreement, to demolish and correctly rebuild 288 houses. The work was not done. Nelson Mandela Bay Human Settlements, Political Head Nqaba Bhanga, argued that Human Settlements Minister at the time, Lindiwe Sisulu, had discontinued the rectification of the shoddy construction jobs. During violent protests windows were broken and other parts of the site were vandalised. Wiring, power sockets, fencing, air-conditioners and palisade fencing were also stolen from the premises. Repair costs for the building were estimated at R12-million but these have not begun. One of the Museum’s Security Guards was fatally shot, in front of the Building in December 2013.
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