University of Zululand

Location: KwaZulu Natal, South Africa
Client: University of Zululand 
Start Date: 2019
Completion Date: Ongoing
Project Team: Ludwig Hansen, Jenna Stelli, Jessica Thomson, Emma Brecher
Photos: All images from Office Records

University of Zululand


In 2019, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) was tasked to take forward a planning process for the future development of the University of Zululand, in KwaZulu Natal.

The brief called for the articulation of a Design and Development Framework for the University of Zululand. The Spatial Development Framework (SDF) was handled by LHA+Ud on behalf of the DHET. The SDF aims to reflect, in spatial terms, the intent of the DHET and creates a framework and strategy for implementation for both the KwaDlangezwa and Richards Bay Campuses.

The KwaDlangezwa Campus is the largest and main campus of the University, while the Richards Bay Campus is smaller and is split across separate sites within the urban fabric.

Adhering to a set of seven design principles (which will be looked at in detail in a future post) , the Spatial Development Framework maintains a strict and unified approach to both campuses ensuring the identity of the university is celebrated not only through the design, but also through the ongoing phases of implementation.


The Kwadlangezwa campus

The KwaDlangezwa Campus is the University’s Main Campus. It is located adjacent to Vulindlela, approximately 35km from Richards Bay. As a clear and original existing campus plan it has many spatial positives crucial to the foundation of the future SDF. The university is well designed and is equipped with appropriate academic infrastructure. It is settled in the rich natural beauty of Zululand surrounded by an expanse of underdeveloped land available for future expansion.

The natural ridges and valleys plays a major role in informing both the existing and future development platforms, pedestrian and movement routes, as well as opening up natural landmarks and view corridors towards the Mangeza Dam to the North-West, and the Ocean to the South-East.

The campus is not without spatial challenges; the vision and purpose do not align, the expansion of student residences is unfocussed and risks succumbing to sprawl detracting from the University’s clear academic core, the use of land is wasteful, and in many instances the campus buildings and surroundings require major upkeep.


Richards Bay Campus

The Richards Bay Campus is the University’s urban campus and is located approximately 35km from the KwaDlangezwa Campus within the Umhlathuze Municipality.

The campus is divided into three precincts; an existing academic campus, a new residential site, and an existing Transnet residence. All precincts are within a 2,5km walking distance to each other.

The main spatial challenges include, among other factors, large distances between the residential and academic portions of the campus. Security is therefore a factor, and adding to that, the buildings are free standing and pavillion-like surrounded by ill-defined amounts of open space. The student life programme (club, societies, and sport) is also limited.