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An architecture with a soul



ROMA – IT is an architecture that will define not only ’Mamathe Wonderland but the land and the culture of the Basotho.

It is conceived by one Teboho Makhutla, a Limkokwing University of Creative Technology (LUCT) trained interior architect who decided to join the moving train – the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

He envisions for ’Mamathe Wonderland, a project driven by NUL academics, “an architecture with a soul.”

In his eyes, it is the architecture that has life that goes beyond the basic functionality of a building.

“It is the architecture with a story to tell,” he says.

Take one specific building shown on the attached picture.

It has a meaning.

It condenses what Lesotho is all about—The Kingdom in the Sky.

If you take a closer look at the unique design, you see many stories about Lesotho subtly narrated with incredible ingenuity—the monument is meant to set Lesotho apart on an international tourist landscape.

What are those stories? Wait a minute. We shall tell you!

This architecture will permeate the landscape of the envisaged ’Mamathe Wonderland.

“Once in time, I met someone who told me that the architecture found in the southern hemisphere, where we are, is “the architecture without architects,”” he said.

“The description gives an impression of people who just build because they have to build, who gives no thinking to what they are doing.”

He disagreed—at least to some extent.

“To me, our part of the world has always had architects,” he began the narrative.

“How many of us have seen the decorations that Basotho used to make around traditional houses, “mekhoro,” which were called “Litema””?

He then argues that if you take a deeper look at the “litema,” you realize that they require the hands of a skilled and thoughtful artist, not a layman.

Take roofing as another example, “to ensure that roofing remains structurally sound, our “mekhoro” architecture has to ensure 90 degrees convergent of poles that make the roofs.

“That” he again argued “requires a level of deep thinking—beyond the conceptualization of the laymen.”

He then revealed a genius we normally take for granted, “these kinds of buildings were made using materials found only in the surrounding environment.”

If it meant stone, stone, if it meant mud, mud— they never had to import building materials.

And, “here is their deepest secret that evades us today, those buildings, precisely because they moderate temperatures naturally, are exceptionally comfortable dwellings both in summer and winter,” he said.

We narrate this story because we want to introduce what defines Teboho’s architectural thinking and philosophy.

“I take my inspirations from the designs that Basotho have already created. But I have noted one common feature about our architecture which makes me a bit uncomfortable — it is not changing with time.”

That is where he fits in.

Architecture, he says, goes with time.

Take for instance, the ancient Egyptian Pyramids, the Great Wall of China and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris. These monuments, he says, all tell the story of their time.

“That is where the Western architecture beats us, and that is why we have eventually adopted it — it is dynamic in nature.”

So he departs from two angles.

From our original architecture, he picks the inspiration on the designs.

He then weaves these designs into modernity to reflect the realities of our time.

Again, let’s get back to the picture attached to this story, which will form the reception area of the ’Mamathe Wonderland.

Previously, we said this picture tells a story.

In reality, it tells many stories.

It tells the story of Lesotho being the “Kingdom in the Sky,” as Lesotho is proudly referred to by international tourists [Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1 000 metres in elevation].

Well, it also borrows from the story of “mokhoro,” which is the primary building of the Basotho.

You can see the shape of “mokhoro” there, glad with the thatch roofing.

“The words “Kingdom” and “Sky” bring highness into mind,” he said.

“A kingdom is a place of kings and queens and kings and queens are high up in the social structure. And, as we all know, the sky itself is high up there.”

To reflect this reality, his “mokhoro” is not “sitting” on the ground.

Rather, it is suspended “in the sky” like a “kingdom” so to speak.

But why is it built with glass?

On one hand, the glass reflects the modernity of the architecture.

We know glass dominates our modern building landscape.

On the other hand, the glass is carefully selected not only to be sky-blue but to reflect the natural sky itself.

Remember why—this is the “Kingdom in the Sky!”

The building is also dome-shaped, borrowing from ’Malikotoana, that small black pot Basotho women cook with.

“This captures the story of “’Mѐ ’Mamathe,” the queen and the woman who breathes her name into ’Mamathe wonderland even in her grave,” Makhutla concluded.

What inspires Makhutla to go deeper than your average architect?

“When people visit our land, they are greeted first, not by us, but by the buildings of the land they visit.”

Own Correspondent


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