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In 2010, when Deborah Terhune pivoted from a decades-long career in private-sector real estate to one in social entrepreneurship, she founded the nonprofit Growing Up Africa, with a two-pronged education mission. The New York–based organization develops secure and technology-ready education facilities in South Africa with local labor, so that community members gain valuable field experience in the construction trades. In addition, upon conclusion of those projects, buildings are donated to school operators to perpetuate a culture of learning. The recently completed Devland Soweto Education Campus in Johannesburg is Growing Up Africa’s first foray into a higher-education program.

Devland SOWETO Education Campus.

The campus was built by the community. Photo © Ken Gerhardt, click to enlarge.

The 21,500-square-foot building, which comprises administrative offices and flexible learning spaces, anchored by an auditorium in its northeast corner, was designed by New York–based William Reue Architecture, with Africa’s largest firm, Boogertman + Partners, serving as architect of record. Both studios worked on the commission pro bono, and 225 companies donated materials and labor to the effort in all. These goods and professional services make up 80 percent of the total cost of the facility, which is equivalent to $6.9 million.

Devland SOWETO Education Campus.

The large daylit flex room. Photo © Ken Gerhardt

The Devland campus occupies a 1.7-acre parcel overlooking a highway that connects its namesake community—part of the Soweto townships, which a segregationist government established as a Black ghetto in the 1930s—to Johannesburg. Although Terhune says her expansive network of corporate sponsors and private donors are committed to Growing Up Africa’s goals in principle, architect William Reue notes that givers needed a highly resolved schematic design to galvanize tangible commitments. In turn, Reue conceived a low-slung volume, parallel to the artery at its east, with a roofline that rakes upward dramatically to accommodate the auditorium within. “It was important to have a bold and dignified presence at the street to create a center of gravity, while scaling the rest of the building to the informal development that surrounds the site,” he says.

The initial drawings of the school secured the donated concrete that makes up the building’s superstructure, and the design evolved as subsequent gifts fell into place. Responding to an offer of more than 20,000 sandbags, for example, Reue thickened the walls to make use of their thermal and acoustical properties. When that framing prevented Reue from punching geometrically complex openings into the north and west elevations, he approximated that idea by installing donated windows in a seemingly random pattern. Alternatively, when Reue thought that the aluminum extrusions cladding a nearby Johannesburg gallery would make an evocative skin for the auditorium, Terhune was able to raise funds for a direct purchase.

Devland SOWETO Education Campus.
Devland SOWETO Education Campus.

The buildings feature playful fenestration. Photos © Ken Gerhardt

Because few of these transactions took place in single swoops, Terhune orchestrated construction based on the availability of supplies and laborers. Occasionally work would pause until the planets realigned in her favor. Even so, she says, “it was important that I was on-site every day. I made a promise to the community and to everyone who committed time and resources to this project.” Fulfilling that promise, in 2021 Terhune turned the campus over to the University of Johannesburg, which will run the facility as a satellite specializing in the STEAM curricula for its undergraduates and local continuing-education students. The university, moreover, has partnered with the global IT services and consulting company Accenture, so that students may be assigned to one of its projects upon completion of their coursework.

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Devland SOWETO Education Campus.

Read more from our January 2022 issue’s Education & Community focus.


William Reue Architecture
1133 Broadway, Suite 1025
New York, NY 10010
PH: 917.992.8229

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:
William Reue AIA (design lead), Joshua Bailey (design team), Tyler Stowell (design team), Jennifer Wong (design team)

Architect of Record:
Boogertman + Partners
Block C, Main Straight Office Park
Bryanston, South Africa 2194
PH: +27.11.790.1600

Associate Architect(s):
ML Architects
37 Old Kilcullen Road
Sandton, South Africa 2191
PH: +27.72.316.9650

Interior Designer:
Development & Design Consulting

Civil: SMEC South Africa
Civil: Earth Civils
Structural: SMEC South Africa
Electrical: Spoormaker & Partners
Electrical: MRT Electricians
Plumbing: Ferro Plumbing
Traffic: The WSP Group Africa

Consultants :
Plant & Equipment Supplier: Tiber Construction Group
Quantity Surveyor: Norval Wentzel Steinberg
Surveyor: Samsara Survey Solutions
Zoning & Planning: Urban Dynamics
Permit Consultant: Mandy Pietersen, MPBC
Pest Control: Johannesburg Pest Control Specialist
Pest Control: Pestatermite
Waterproofing: Tintinger
Concrete Testing: David Tite
Soil Testing: Roadlab
Kitchen Design: Famous Brands

General Contractor:
Growing Up Africa

Ken Gerhardt



Structural System:
Concrete Structure: Metier

Exterior Cladding:
Masonry: CEMblocks
Metal panels: Alania Building Systems
Aluminum Shopfronts: Govender’s Aluminium & Glass

Built-up roofing: Sikalastic by SIKA South Africa; Light-weight Screed by Pratley; Cement and Aggregate by PPC Limited; Rigifoam Insulation; Impact Drill & Anchors by Upat
Waterproofing: Cement Waterproofing by Chryso SA
Waterproofing: Pluvia Siphonic Roof Drain System by Geberit

Metal frame: Govender’s Aluminium & Glass

Glass: Govender’s Aluminium & Glass
Skylights: Govender’s Aluminium & Glass

Entrances: Metal framed entry doors by Govender’s Aluminium & Glass
Fire-control doors: Hufcor products by iFUBA
Special doors: Hufcor products by iFUBA

Locksets: Hufcor products by iFUBA
Locksets: Govender’s Aluminium & Glass

Interior Finishes:
Acoustical Ceilings: Siniat, a division of the global Etex Group
Suspended Ceilings: Suspension cables & attachments by Gripple SA
Demountable Partitions: Toilet Partitions by iFUBA
Cabinetwork and Custom Woodwork: Dokter & Misses
Paint & Special Finishes: Versus Paints, SA
Wall coverings: Magnastrut
Special surfacing: Granite countertops by Ohlhorst Marble and Granite
Floor and wall tile: Vinyl Floor by Belgotex; Porcelain floor & wall tiling by Mazista Tiles
Carpet: Carpeting by Belgotex
Floor Leveling: Floor leveling by ITE
Floor Leveling: Movement Joints by Kirk Marketing

Office furniture: Dokter & Misses
Chairs: Punk Chairs by Green Company
Tables: Dokter & Misses
Other furniture: Benches by Dokter & Misses

Interior ambient lighting: AURORA Lighting Group
Exterior: Eurolux

Sinks, Basins,Toilets/Urinals: Geberit

Sandbag Wall System: African Olive Concepts
Sandbag Framing System: MiTek Industries SA
Sandbag Fabric: Fibertex
Sandbag Fabrication: Stitchwise

Scaffolding & Formwork: WACO Africa Group Int’l.
Exterior Site Fencing: ClearVu Fencing by Cochrane
Stainless Steel Handrails: Steel Studio
Exterior Granite Stairs: Ohlhorst Marble and Granite
Exterior Concrete Paving: Bosun
Exterior Tile Paving: Smartstone
Exterior Concrete Lintels: FabCon
Concrete Guardhouse Roof: CSS
Rebar for Concrete: Steeldale
Core Drills: HILTI
Building & Plaster Sand: Sandshifters
Electrical Boards: EBM
Electrical Cables: Aberdare Powertech
Building & Plaster Sand: Sandshifters
Building & Plaster Sand: Gomes
Building & Plaster Sand: PPC Limited
Building & Plaster Sand: CEMblocks