The Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market is perfectly located within the luscious Lowveld as a catalyst to stimulate growth in the agricultural sector, create a significant number of job opportunities, create scope for the establishment of downstream business and act as an important tool to fight food insecurity.  

The design of this facility addresses the needs of the modern food industry and is designed to operate more effectively and efficiently than existing, traditional fresh produce markets. The entire project consists of 17 buildings; each playing an integral part in the market operations. In order to achieve the design requirements, improvements were made to the physical infrastructure layout, and the building structures which in turn affect the operations and management of this ‘market of the future’.  

Acknowledgement of the ever-changing requirements for people and the spaces around them is vital. Architects are consistently challenged to meet and design for the exceeding demands of the future, which obviously, is unseen. Thus, developing architecture to incorporate an adaptive nature becomes increasingly important.

Popularised by Robert Kronenburg in his book Flexible: Architecture that Responds to Change is the term ‘flexible architecture”. In his book, Kronenburg notes that the ‘majority of current architecture is static; it doesn’t adapt or have the ability to change over time, which drastically contrasts with the ever-changing natural world that continually adapts to its surroundings’. Kronenburg highlights the importance of architecture mimicking nature with regards to its flexibility – the importance of the built environment being able to meet shifting needs, socially and environmentally. The Mpumalanga International Fresh Produce Market project, a large-scale operation, held great potential for the ability to ensure a more sustainable and relevant design. 

True to the saying: “Form follows function”, the design of the main market building has been designed to accommodate the most flexible market operations according to the current requirements, but also for possible future alterations and expansion to these operations. Due to the current requirements of the Fresh Produce Market and its extensive scale, the challenge of adaptability was increased. The focus of versatility was put on the overarching structure that incorporates all of the movement and houses the various requirements: the roof.

The layout was designed to accommodate for future expansion by extruding the roof design to the back. Current grid line numbering runs numerically from the top to bottom to ease and consolidate future design extensions with the current design. Sail material roofing at the back of the building connects lightly with the back end gable which will also allow flexibility for future expansion. 

Three-dimensional triangular tubular arch trusses spanning 220m in length with two rows of support columns spaced at 68m in between, grants the operator the required flexibility to position cold rooms, racking and set out the most productive operational equipment layouts. The side end supports for these trusses, in the form of supporting concrete portal frames, were integrated into the design of the building to accommodate mechanical equipment. To complement the versatility, translucent modular sheeting on the southern sides of these concrete portal gables allow for natural light to enter the building without excessive heat transmission. The roof sheeting consists of a sandwich panel of 135mm insulated material with sheeting to the top and bottom to maximise temperature control within the building. 

The above-mentioned implementations enable the promotion of sustainability and functionality. Modern technology has provided the opportunity to design and create spaces that are inclusive of these characteristics and approachability simultaneously.


Drone image: full market site.

The enormous scale of the trusses.

Three-dimensional triangular tubular arch trusses.

Trusses within the model.