Modern wrestling arena to revive Senegal’s time-honoured sport

Standing majestically in a once abandoned patch of marshland on the eastern edge of the Senegalese capital, the National Wrestling Arena is an attraction for both visitors and locals.

The new iconic facility, built by the Sixth Engineering Company Limited of China’s Hunan Construction Engineering Group (HNCEG) in Dakar, was officially handed over to local authorities at the end of July.

At the handover ceremony, visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping passed the “golden key” of the project to his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, and the two leaders enjoyed a show of traditional Senegalese wrestling.

The project was described as a mirage when it began in April 2016, with significant difficulties standing in the way, including hostile terrain and weather, skill gaps and unavailability of quality construction materials like steel rods.

“Draining the marshlands during the rainy season was a Herculean task. The foundation had to be constructed afresh on several occasions after collapsing due to heavy rains,” said Li Zhao, a supervisor with HNCEG.

Delivering construction materials to the marshland was also difficult, Li said, adding that Chinese technicians also grappled with language barriers and cultural conflicts.

Yet they forged on and their fortitude paid off. The biggest wrestling arena in Africa was completed on schedule, featuring an exemplary combination of modern engineering and human ingenuity.

Modern wrestling arena to revive Senegal’s time-honoured sport

Standing majestically in a once abandoned patch of marshland on the eastern edge of the Senegalese capital, the National Wrestling Arena is an attraction for both visitors and locals.

The new iconic facility, built by the Sixth Engineering Company Limited of China’s Hunan Construction Engineering Group (HNCEG) in Dakar, was officially handed over to local authorities at the end of July.

At the handover ceremony, visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping passed the “golden key” of the project to his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, and the two leaders enjoyed a show of traditional Senegalese wrestling.

The project was described as a mirage when it began in April 2016, with significant difficulties standing in the way, including hostile terrain and weather, skill gaps and unavailability of quality construction materials like steel rods.

“Draining the marshlands during the rainy season was a Herculean task. The foundation had to be constructed afresh on several occasions after collapsing due to heavy rains,” said Li Zhao, a supervisor with HNCEG.

Delivering construction materials to the marshland was also difficult, Li said, adding that Chinese technicians also grappled with language barriers and cultural conflicts.

Yet they forged on and their fortitude paid off. The biggest wrestling arena in Africa was completed on schedule, featuring an exemplary combination of modern engineering and human ingenuity.

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Covering an area of 18 000 square metres and able to accommodate some 20 000 spectators, the landmark wrestling facility is set to revive a sport that has been an integral part of Senegal’s rich culture for the last century.

For decades, Senegal has been associated with soccer prowess, and few outsiders are familiar with its wrestling tradition.

During a recent visit to the arena, Senegalese Sports Minister Matar Ba said it has fulfilled the dreams of his compatriots for a return of the golden era when the sport embodied patriotism, unity and cohesion.

“The sports dreams and wrestling dreams of the Senegalese people have taken root in the land with the launch of this modern arena,” Ba said.

Both locals and visitors are excited about the modern wrestling facility, which features a harmonious blend of world-class architecture and interior design.

Xue Lichun, a lead technical expert on the wrestling arena project, said its implementation adhered to the best engineering practices around the world.

“The project’s implementation strictly adhered to guidelines set out by local regulatory agencies. We procured high-quality construction materials, and local inspectors were on standby to ensure no rules were flouted,” Xue said.

The project was also a training course. About 3 000 local employees have learned practical skills to maintain the arena by themselves in the future, he added.

Amadou Cisse, a 53-year-old local technician who participated in the project, said without China’s advanced technology and skills, it would be impossible for the arena to open to the public on time.

“I am very impressed by the fact that the Chinese are very generous to impart technical knowledge to us. At least, now we have a modern facility where our wrestling giants will prove their mettle,” Cisse said.

Besides the arena, local residents also enjoyed other benefits, as the Chinese enterprise funded the construction of roads, repaired broken sewers and renovated community halls and schools in the vicinity.

“Although China and Senegal are far apart from each other, many cooperation projects have brought tangible benefits to the local people and brought the hearts of the two peoples closer,” said Chinese Ambassador to Senegal Zhang Xun.

The arena is just one example of the deepening friendship and booming cooperation between China and Senegal. Other instances include the National Grand Theater and the Museum of Black Civilization.

When the night falls, the brightly lit National Wrestling Arena shines like a pearl.

“Every time I saw local people happily taking photos with the brand new arena, my eyes couldn’t help getting wet, and I always got emotional,” said Li, the HNCEG supervisor.

PERI stands tall with The Leonardo high-rise project in Sandton

Formwork and scaffolding solutions provider PERI South Africa is standing tall with its long-standing involvement in The Leonardo project, not only destined to be the tallest building in Sandton, but possibly the new record holder for the tallest building in Africa.

The Leonardo, cousin to the Legacy Group’s Michelangelo and Da Vinci buildings, will ultimately be the tallest building in Sandton, having been boosted from an original 47 to 55 storeys due to demand, with an anticipated final height in excess of 223 m upon its completion in 2019. It is fitting that PERI, the world’s largest manufacturer of formwork and scaffolding, has been involved with this iconic project since 2015.

“The challenges have been many and varied – and we have enjoyed rising to every one of them. When the Legacy Group awarded our long-time client Aveng Grinaker-LTA the contract to build The Leonardo, we were awarded the basement levels initially, with the top structure to follow,” PERI Lead Engineer: Key and Strategic Projects Sebastian Burwitz explains.

While PERI South Africa has collaborated with Aveng Grinaker-LTA on a number of flagship projects, including the recently-completed Sasol headquarters, The Leonardo is the largest project to date for both companies.

The basement development alone included pouring and placing a total of 17 500 m³ of reinforced concrete, 1 380 tonnes of reinforcing steel, 40 000 m² of formwork, and the laying of 350 000 stock bricks, together with 8 000 m² of plaster, and 2 000 m² of screed.

In planning the basement slabs, PERI incorporated and supplemented Aveng Grinaker-LTA’s own stock of SKYDECK, its panelised slab formwork system, into the formwork layouts. Together with PERI’s MULTIFLEX, used in adjacent slab areas, the required slab loadings could be carried in the most efficient manner.

For the standard gang-formed vertical applications, PERI’s TRIO wall formwork system was used by Aveng Grinaker-LTA, with supplementary stock supplied by PERI to site. PERI’s manhandled DOMINO system was used to eliminate dependency on crane time for the internal walls and beam sides.

“PERI was able to use its innovative DUO system with polymer technology, also characterised by its low weight and extremely simple handling,” Burwitz adds, noting that the feedback to date has been very positive. “Aveng Grinaker-LTA has subsequently deployed DUO project-wide for ancillary works such as some water tanks and smaller retaining walls, where the system has really come into its own.”

The main focus for PERI was the gigantic core. Consisting of over 1 000 m2 of core walls, this is the centrepiece of Sandton’s tallest building. The core and slabwork have been staggered on purpose to allow for efficient access to shafts from slab level, and to maximise cranage advantage.

As a mixed-use development, The Leonardo will offer luxury residential apartments and penthouse suites, together with more than 15 000 m² of premium office space. It includes a business and conference centre, a gym and spa, restaurants, and recreational and lifestyle zones.

“We have been on-site since Q4 2015, commencing with the supplementary supply of PERI-owned materials that our client had in its yard.” Burwitz highlights that the main engineering goal was to complete the core design within budget and time constraints, as per the programme specified by the client. “Getting our heads around the sheer size and scope of the project was an important initial mental step,” he notes.

The 11-m-high key feature walls posed a particular challenge in that the patterns specified had to meet strict quality and design criteria. It was decided to cast these walls on-site as single elements, with close collaboration with suppliers in terms of the concrete mix required, the use of external vibrators to settle the concrete inside the form, and then the unusual feat of pumping concrete from the bottom-up firstly, and later from the top down. Here the correct sequencing was vital.

Extra attention had to be paid to health and safety in terms of the extreme height of the building, especially in terms of wind speed and pressure analysis for working at such heights. Here PERI provided dedicated training on its Rail Climbing System – Carriage (RCS-C) heavy-duty system. This training extended to toolbox talks with all foremen to ensure that they not only understood how the system worked, but how best to use it to speed up construction and ensure maximum quality.

PERI’s ongoing involvement with the development of the ‘New Sandton’ has seen the formwork and scaffolding solutions provider involved with 60% to 70% of all the major buildings in the premier business precinct since 2015, from full supply to specialised items.

“The combination of our products, customer relationships, and engineering expertise and solutions, as well as our important international engineering back-up when required, makes PERI a ‘go-to’ supplier,” Burwitz concludes.

Low-impact boutique hotel in Namibia pays homage to shipwrecks

A luxury boutique hotel draws inspiration from the shipwrecks that line Namibia’s treacherous Skeleton Coast to create a thrilling getaway.

Set amidst the windswept sand dunes of Namibia’s coastline, Shipwreck Lodge is a low-impact boutique hotel that pays homage to the landscape in more ways than one. Designed by Windhoek–based Nina Maritz Architects, the 20-bed property was constructed on a $2 million budget that relied heavily on prefabrication to minimise environmental impact, and to ensure comfort for guests in the remote and extremely harsh desert.

Critical to the design was the solar-powered lodge’s limited 25-year concession period, after which the prefab hotel will need to be fully removed from site.

“The Skeleton Coast is so-named for the many foundered vessels littering this treacherous shore,” explains architect Nina Maritz of the 13 000-square-foot Shipwreck Lodge. “Trying to capture the sense of harshness and desolation that shipwrecked passengers and sailors experienced in earlier times, the timber cabins were designed to evoke broken pieces of ships.”

Clad in pine and framed with spruce, the salt-and-moisture-resistant timber structures had been prefabricated in Windhoek, and then transported 12 hours to the site for final assembly.

“The siding was installed by using a revolutionary new ‘Lignoloc’ nailing system from Beck, whereby timber nails are driven into the wood to fix it to the support frames,” explains Maritz. “This is the first time it has been used under such conditions, and will be watched with interest for it performance. ”

The back-of-house components had been custom-made from shipping containers and fabricated in the small coastal town of Swakopmund, six hours from the site.

Built in the shape of a ship hull lying on its side, each of the 10 cabins features an outdoor deck and a spacious bedroom with two beds and a wood-burning stove. The bedroom connects to the bathroom housed in a pointed bow section that faces south into the wind. Melanie van der Merwe of Women Unleashed furnished the interiors with bespoke and off-the-shelf pieces. OSB board was mainly used for the interior walls of all the buildings.

“The remoteness of the site made logistics extremely difficult – no forgetting your pliers at home! – but the relentless wind, which removes the sand around the footings, is the most challenging feature of the site,” further notes Maritz.

“Maintenance is relentlessly ongoing, and constant vigilance is needed to ensure that the wind does not undermine the structures, which are fixed to poles bedded deeply in the sand,” says Maritz. “Despite the references to wooden boats, the forms are abstracted, with only a few broken spars adding a light-hearted touch to signal the shipwreck theme.”

Kigali Architecture School: Redefining how we see architecture in an African context

In a recent partnership with the up and coming French Architects Patrick Schweitzer et Associés Architectes, Edwin Seda set up a series of photographic essays which capture the new Faculty of Architecture and Environmental Design in Kigali, Rwanda.

“Architecture is created to work with natural light but is never really in control of this aspect, my work on the Kigali school therefore explores light as a medium for spatial transformation, a sort of fourth dimension, which only materialises once buildings and spaces are complete and the seasons begin to change,” explains Seda. “I have been trying to find a sense in architecture that perhaps goes beyond the human touch, the irony being that photography is in itself the epitome of human touch. This is something I have always aspired to dress up, a somewhat self-contradiction too, I guess.”

“The images explore architecture within Kigali as a vulnerable and dramatically resilient concept, persuaded by light and the lens as a third dimension. There is a construction of different narratives, of optimism and an underserving in both good and bad weather, jovial and expressive sadness, busy and leisurely schedules.”

Seda concludes: “The images are therefore constants pursuits of the narrative of light and human experience, explored through internal and external spaces and although sometimes somewhat accidental, the images are purely honest in the way they portray light and space, as this is how we perceive the spaces we walk in.”

The architecture of Black Panther

The afrofuturist architecture featured in hit movie Black Panther is an unexpected blend of Zaha Hadid and Buckingham Palace, according to designer Hannah Bleacher. Beachler, who worked as production designer on the $200 million movie, visited buildings by the late Iraqi-British architect while researching for the film.

“That’s what I wanted people to feel for the modern architecture in Black Panther,” she said. “Very voluptuous, very curvy, no hard edges and the spaces feel both very large and intimate at the same time.”

Movie set in fictional African country

The movie is set in Wakanda, a fictional African country that escaped colonisation and instead developed a vibrant afrofuturist aesthetic and super-powered inhabitants, who are fuelled by a miracle element called vibranium.
Production designer Beachler turned to the architecture of Zaha Hadid, Buckingham Palace and afrofuturism when creating the fictional world for the new Marvel film, which is showing in UK cinemas now.

The film, directed by Ryan Coogler, follows Wakanda’s king T’Challa – the Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman – as he attempts to protect his nation from arch-enemy Killmonger, played by Michael B Jordan.

Beachler, a freelance production designer based in New Orleans, came up with the design concept for Wakanda’s buildings and cities. Her work is credited as a key reason for the success of the film, which is based on a Marvel comic strip about a black superhero.

Speaking to Dezeen, the designer explained the influences she drew upon when creating the sets and outdoor scenes, which were shot in countries including Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and South Korea.

The inspiration for Black Panther’s palace came from Buckingham Palace, home to the Queen of England and the former seat of Britain’s colonial power.

However the reason for this choice was largely pragmatic, Beachler said, since the London mansion was mainly used to determine the size of the king’s residence.

Black Panther’s home based on royal residence

“The first thought I had was, what does Black Panther’s palace look like and how big is it?” she explained. “Because that’s going to determine how big the rest of the city is.”

“The thing that I looked at for size and got all the measurements on was Buckingham Palace, because that was a good size to replicate as far as a palace goes,” she explained. “The perfect size for what a palace should be is roughly is 359 feet by 486 feet, like Buckingham Palace.”

When it came to designing the rest of the city, Beachler found herself looking to the sinuous buildings of late British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid; in particular, the DDP Building in Seoul, completed in 2013, and the Wangjing SOHO in Beijing, completed in 2015.

Beachler visited Zaha buildings for inspiration

Both these structures combine curved, futuristic structures with references to natural elements. The DDP Building has undulating aluminium surfaces that resemble flowing water, while Wangjing SOHO features a curved, tapered structure, designed to look like “three interweaving mountains”.

“Walking through Zaha’s buildings, it is the curvature of the walls, it is the materials that you connect with. Her walls, for instance, aren’t drywall, they’re plastered or metal or wooden,” Beachler said. “You always feel intimate in a large space because you understand the texture. You connect with it more than if it were just a glass wall.”

To achieve this, Beachler created fluid and curved structures for Wakanda, using earth tones and natural materials.

Zaha-style curves were then combined with southern African architectural references, such as the traditional rondavel huts that feature conical, thatched roofs. These can be seen in the design of the skyscrapers in Wakanda’s Golden City capital.

Circles everywhere

The repeated use of circles was also intended to create a particular mood in the film, Beachler explained.

“Every single space is a circle that helps calm and relax,” she said. “It also represents this continual journey that we’re on – this life cycle of birth, life and death that has many representations on the continent. I thought it was very important to put that in the film.”

The pairing of these elements helped Beachler create an afrofuturist aesthetic – a style also seen across the film’s costume design and cinematography.

Movie triggers afrofuturism revival

The film has triggered renewed interest in afrofuturism: a cultural movement that combines African and African diaspora culture with technology and science fiction elements.

“You can look to afrofuturism for the aesthetic [of Black Panther],” Bleacher said. “It was really about blending things that were existing in a lot of different African cultures and then creating them as if they had evolved over time and inserting that into our fictional nation.”

Afrofuturism also influenced the costumes in the movie, which were designed by African-American costume designer Ruth E Carter. They include 3D printed garments based on clothing and accessories from a range of African cultures, including Turkana and Maasai.

Black Panther is the third film Beachler has worked on with director Ryan Coogler. Previous films include 2013’s Fruitvale Station and 2015’s Creed. Other projects by Beachler include the 2016 Oscar-winning film Moonlight and the video for Beyonce’s Lemonade album.