Arch for the Arch
A tribute to the human rights activist Desmond Tutu


Architecture, Landscape Architecture


The Arch for Archbishop Desmond Tutu stands as a tribute to the human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Archbishop Tutu, as well as a monument to peace and democracy.

Designed by Snøhetta and Johannesburg-based Local Studio, in collaboration with Design Indaba, the engineers at Hatch, and generously supported by Liberty, The Arch marks the site where Tutu began many anti-Apartheid protests in Cape Town. Situated between the Parliament and St. George's Cathedral, the permanent wooden structure creates a new public space in the city's downtown.

Technical details

Installation & Commissions
Cape Town, South Africa

Representing the 14 chapters of the constitution

The Arch consists of 14 intertwined strands of bent wood, representing the 14 chapters of the South African constitution. Together, the arching wooden elements inscribe a globe, celebrating Archbishop Tutu's role as a unifying figure for the international peace movement. At 9 meters tall, or nearly 3 stories high, the scale of the Arch envelops visitors as they pass underneath it.

The Arch's significant location will stand as a constant reminder to lawmakers. Its proximity to St. George's Cathedral, which is the seat of the Archbishop of Cape Town, frames the public entrance to the Company's Garden, has existed since 1652, and is the most popular walk for citizens accessing the cultural precinct of Cape Town.

Photo: Dave Southwood

Opposing forces pushing against one another

A traditional arch is supported by opposing forces pushing against one another, held together by a keystone. These structural properties emerged as a core concept for the design, where the Arch stands as a metaphor for the integrity of the country's democracy, whose conceptual keystone is the Constitution of South Africa. 

The Arch is made of Larch wood, a highly durable and resistant material that will weather gracefully over time, taking on the elements of its surroundings. The warmth of wood was intentionally selected to lend the Arch an intimate, tactile quality that invites people to interact with the structure in a way that differs from the conventional materials people might expect for a memorial structure, such as concrete, steel, or stone.

Photos: Dave Southwood

More than a monument

The first Arch was unveiled on Archbishop Desmond Tutu's 86th birthday on October 7, 2017. A second smaller Arch is now located on Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, where the Constitutional Court is located. Its unveiling took place on December 10 to coincide with the 21st anniversary of the country's Constitution.

The monument was first announced at Design Indaba 2017, following Craig Dykers' keynote speech at the conference. To the audience's surprise, Archbishop Tutu joined the celebration, making his first public appearance in nearly two years for the announcement of the memorial.

The Arch is more than a monument for Archbishop Tutu. It builds on the legacy of South Africa's foremost campaigner for democracy to create a platform for public participation in upholding the Constitution. The Arch will be a permanent tribute to what was sacrificed in pursuing democracy and the vital necessity of protecting these rights for future generations.

Photos: Design Indaba

Photo: Dave Southwood