The Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial




BPAS Architects participated in an international competition to design the Last Nuclear Bomb Memorial. The site chosen was Vastrapveld –South Africa’s abandoned nuclear testing site located in the most remote parts of the Great Karoo. BPAS Architects saw this as an opportunity to learn about our country’s history and express it through design.

The site contains bomb shafts that were built in the 1970s. After pressure by international powers, testing on the site was ceased before a single bomb was detonated. The shafts were closed and concealed by large concrete slabs as if to never have existed.

The design aims to reveal what lies forgotten and bring light to the importance of banning nuclear testing forever.

The memorial consists of a series of walkways, leading the visitor through spaces that tell the story of nuclear history within South Africa. The site becomes an architectural journey: exploring the unknown, discovering the past and reflecting on the future.

The large slab concealing the shaft is exposed below but left physically untouched. Walkways lead down towards the bottom of the slab, revealing the testing hole below. Following the journey, the visitor is led to the top of the slab – the reflection space at the end of the journey. A cylinder of light stretches out from the shaft below, cutting through the slab and shining a light on South Africa – and the world’s – history.

The design aims to illustrate the damage extent of what could have been the impact crater after detonation. This is contrasted by having as little impact as possible on the surrounding landscape.