New Health Sciences Teaching Facility at WSU, Mthatha

Funded by the Department of Higher Education’s Infrastructure and Efficiency Fund, Phase 1 of the new Walter Sisulu University Health Sciences Teaching Facility in Mthatha is underway. Tension Structures was commissioned by Intsika Architects to install a fabric structure roof to cover the atrium walkway of the 1,350m² double storey building, a focal point when entering the campus.

At the time, Acting WSU Interim Vice Chancellor Prof Khaya Mfenyana said, “The University is one of world’s top eight medical faculties in problem-based community learning. With the faculty being strategically positioned and in close proximity to the Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital and the Health Resource Centre, it means operations such as administration, research, teaching and learning and training will be seamless.”


While the brief was for an elliptical shaped roof to cover a walkway and was always intended to be a fabric roof, the initial design comprised of a completely flat roof with an extra-large tension ring and tie down cables requiring tremendous concrete columns and foundations. Tension Structures developed the scheme eliminating the 4 cable tension ring and 4 cables tie down cables, thus reducing loads on the structure; and there was no need for concrete foundations for the tie down cables. The redesign significantly reduced the cost of the structure, as well as the walkway space underneath.

On the ground floor, the building will house 10 lecture halls; each will be able to accommodate 60 students. The first floor will comprise 20 smaller tutorial rooms.