Rethinking The Architectural Literacy Of Higher Education Institutions: A Case Study Of University Of KwaZulu-Natal: Howard College

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Lawrence Babatunde Ogunsanya


Universities campuses are composed of buildings with emotional, practical, functional and even spiritual meanings. The physical environment of a university campus is a place with distinct character. Apart from their functional requirements as places of learning and knowledge production, buildings and landscapes form a textual lens through which to examine higher education provisioning across time. This article discusses the chronological history of the Howard College campus of the University of KwaZulu-Natal through the lens of architecture. This article also argues that architecture can be viewed as a ‘text’ which can be a form of language that can be comprehended and interpreted through various architectural styles, elements, form and layouts. It discusses how university campus buildings are illuminating reflections of the political, cultural and educational landscape contexts of different periods within the physical development of a higher education institution. Four campus buildings established in different periods with different architectural styles and features were analysed in this article with a particular focus on colonial architecture and its influence on campus buildings. The article proposes “architectural literacy” as a construct to inform a qualitative historical insight into the changing landscape of the higher education system in South Africa and the university of KwaZulu-Natal. It also provides insight into the various transformations in the built environment of the university campus from its colonial inception to its evolving decolonised state through the campus buildings.

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