The redeveloped Old Fort Prison in the Constitution Hill precinct preserves one of the oldest places of incarceration and human rights abuses in South Africa. Before the heritage site opened in 2004, it was a derelict and neglected former prison complex overlooking Johannesburg. Today, it is home to the Constitutional Court and a collection of museum spaces, symbolizing the country's successful fight for democracy and serving to honor the nation's triumph over oppression. The goal of the precinct was to create a link between the past and the future through three interrelated missions: connect the new Constitutional Court to historic sites of pain; preserve, conserve, and restore history on the site; and use the site to spur urban regeneration.
This case study is based on project research conducted by MASS Design Group in August 2015. Funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, this case illustrates how a capital project can achieve significant public benefit, in this instance reclaiming a site of oppression to reflect and advance a nation's progress. It also illuminates the opportunities as well as challenges inherent in complex public and philanthropic partnerships.