Constitutional Court, South Africa
The constitutional court in South Africa is located in Johannesburg on a former prison site. The court is multifaceted, and is adorned by African sculptures outside.
Upon entering there is a museum of South African art that depicts several aspects of South Africa’s struggle against apartheid, as well as its images of the rich diverse culture that exists in the country. The art is displayed in a way that leads you down stairs, and the further down the stairs the further back in history one goes. The steps lead to a former prison cell where prisoners of the apartheid regime were held. Walking from the gallery/foyer to the courtroom there is a trial block, where prisoners used to stand while awaiting trial, near the block is a flame that is kept on to symbolize the light that democracy will shine one the nation. There is an unadorned, honest element about the interior of this building: the walls are reused bricks from the prison, to keep the memories of the prisoners alive. The actual courtroom has 11 cow-skins of the nguni cow (which is traditionally Southern African and essential to many native ceremonies); this serves as an homage to the native South Africans. There is an interface between the brick wall and glass panes, which shows transparency.
I enjoyed my tour of this building because the memory of apartheid is very fresh in South Africa, and there is no question that its imprints will remain. However, the building ensures that decision makers in South Africa are reminded of it so that they make choices in the interests of all the population. The building also had colorful aspects, and I believe that it has something to do with South Africa calling themselves the ‘Rainbow Nation’.