The Anele Tembe Library at Durban Girls’ College

How did the concept come about?

The concept for the library’s design came about from a thorough exploration into the future of libraries and how they are still an irreplaceable part of our learning experiences – albeit that they are now places that operate “beyond” books. They are collaboration spaces where one learns with one’s head, heart, and hands.

Why a library to honour Anele’s memory?

Several years ago, the library space was identified in the school’s strategic plan as a key area for renovation. Mr Moses Tembe reached out to us and asked if there would be a project he could be involved with in memory of his late daughter Anele Tembe, a Durban Girls’ College alumna, Class of 2017. Given Anele’s deep love for reading, the concept of the library renovation honouring Anele’s memory was born.

How long did it take to build the library?

In 2022, Andrea Kleinloog, an award-winning designer and DGC alumna from the Class of 2000, was commissioned to curate and create this space. Andrea is the founder of Hesse Kleinloog and co-owner of Anatomy Design.

The project commenced in October 2023, with the furniture being built off-campus. The internal construction transpired during our school holidays in December 2023 and was completed by the end of January 2024.

What are some of the features that make this library so unique?

The vision was ambitious, to create one of the best school library experiences in the country by renovating the historic library to create a more innovative and functional space, suitable for 21st-century learning. The library is a sanctuary, a museum and a workshop for the high school pupils of Durban Girls’ College. It is a space curated for modern-day exploration and learning.

The historical architecture retained includes the breathtaking stained-glass ‘Peppercorn’ window that is over 500 years old and was salvaged from one of Durban’s earliest mansions, Overport House, built by Philanthropist William Hartley, Natal’s first banker and at one time Mayor of Durban (1859 – 1860).

The window is set against the backdrop of the magnificent wooden vaulted ceiling that resembles the hull of a majestic ship, not unlike the Galleon in the Durban Girls’ College school badge. The beautiful sash windows with views over Durban filter in the sunlight and the prevailing winds.

The carefully designed interior spaces are sensory and encourage perspective and investigation. The interior furnishing is modern, and the colour palette is muted and restful. There are different types of learning spaces from acoustic booths for quiet study to cafe-style tables and chairs that are areas of creativity and connection. Large charcoal beanbags provide comfortable reading spaces.

The modern interiors were sourced from local suppliers and artists in South Africa and are interwoven with items curated from the historic school archives.

The Anele Tembe Library is a perfect blend of tradition and modernity. This remarkable transformation to the interior of the library seamlessly blends the historic charm of its architecture with a fresh, modern interior design. A library that stands as a testament to the rich tapestry of time but makes a bold design statement which captures the hearts of the young.