Design and Layout
The Court was conceptualised to foster an ethos of debate in the teaching of law at the Faculty. The Court is specifically designed to bring to students the dignity and austerity of a court of law, supporting the development of the kinds of advocacy skills by which lawyers are daily judged.
The Bench presides over the court room, and accommodates up to three presiding officers - a judge and two assessors or up to three arbitrators. In front of the bench is the table of the judge's registrar. To the right is the recorder's table, from which all sound, visuals and lighting are controlled. To the left is a witness stand from which evidence may be given, or which may double as a lectern for presentations.
The curve of Counsel's table seats up to six counsel on each side of a debate before the bench - while still having sight of each other, and not totally removed from the gallery. The design of the table is such that large papers, plans & diagrams (often used in the presentation of cases) can be managed with ease.
The rear of the court comprises the gallery, with three rows of seating. The curve of the gallery facilitates a measure of debate throughout the gallery, while both gallery and counsel tables make up a single unit.
The Court also provides a formal meeting place for the Board of the Faculty of Law.
Materials - the story
The wood used for fitting out the Court is African Cherry (Mimusops djave toxisperma, family Sapotaceae) from West Africa - where it is called Moabi or djave - with all the veneer cut from a single chosen log. The metal faceplates of each table are cut with the distinctive tribal geometric designs found in most parts of Southern Africa. The chairs on the bench are upholstered in kudu skin, and those for counsel and for the gallery in a pattern reminiscent of the designs of Central Africa.
Giving the bench both gravitas and earth texture, panels of sandstone from Naboomspruit in the North Western Cape adorn the wall behind. Discreetly appearing on one of the panels is a copy of a San painting at Sevilla in the Cederberg mountains of the Cape.
The judge's gavel is turned from red ivory, with a handle of desert ebony, a smallish, shrub-like tree which grows only in the dry river beds of the northern Richtersveld and southern Namibia.
On the back wall is a rare tent divider from Niger. It was hand woven in horizontal strips using sheep and goat's wool and cotton on a double heddle loom in the town of Tilleberi, up the River Niger, and is of a type used by the Tuareg nomadic tent-dwellers of the deserts of central and north Africa. The design and quality of the weave indicates that the divider was probably woven in anticipation of a marriage ceremony or other special event.