The new Constitutional Court of South Africa was inaugurated in 2004, ten years after the demise of apartheid and South Africa’s first democratic elections that brought the African National Congress and Nelson Mandela to power. The historic new building was the work of a team of young South African architects who had won the international competition for the design and building of the Court. Shortly after the opening of the Court, David Krut Publishing was approached to manage a competition for the design of a book on the architecture of this important building. The book design competition was won by Adele Prins of Flow Design and work on the book began in 2005.
The Artworks Committee of the Constitutional Court wanted to create a beautiful book that would celebrate the Court and reflect the character of the building. The book would have to show not only the architectural innovations in the structure, such as the large-scale use of a passive heating and cooling system, but the atmosphere and mood of the Court, its openness, its ability to convey warmth and dignity at the same time, its reflection of the South African landscape and climate, its relationship to the surrounding metropolis, and its incorporation of the troubled history of the site (the old Fort Prison of Johannesburg) upon which the Court would stand.
Early in the building of the Court, the architects had commissioned South African photographer Angela Buckland to document the building process. Her magnificent photographs of the site and the new building persuaded the Committee and the publisher that she should be the photographer for the book.
Working closely with the architects, the book designer, and the photographer, Bronwyn Law-Viljoen – Managing Editor of David Krut Publishing – compiled the text for the book from a series of interviews with Constitutional Court judges, the architects, the contractor and builder, and others. The Artworks Committee did not want a technical architectural essay in the book but rather a narrative that would describe the character and impact of the building. This text is supplemented by architectural notes in the form of captions and annotations for architectural sketches and diagrams.
Light on a Hill: Building the Constitutional Court of South Africa celebrates one of the most important buildings of a young democracy, a building that seeks to reflect the values and principles enshrined in South Africa’s progressive Constitution.