Remove / Rebuild / Respond
March 12 - 19
With a population of over 50 million and the continent’s largest economy, South Africa is often seen as a source of relative stability and prosperity in the region. Yet economic inequality remains high. Around 1.5 million households (approximately 7.5 million people) live in 2,700 informal settlements scattered across the country, which faces an overall shortage of 2.5 million houses. While the government’s record on housing delivery is laudable, the scale of need means informal settlements will remain for the foreseeable future. In response, authorities have slowly begun shifting the focus to incremental upgrading, including committing in 2010 to improve the quality of life of 400,000 households in well located informal settlements by 2014 through improved access to basic services and land tenure.
During Seminar Week, students traveled to Cape Town as an extension of the Urban-Think Tank Design Studio. This trip served as a critical study of the architecture, urbanism, culture, and social exchange in South Africa, with a specific emphasis on informal housing settlements. Students took part in a series of lectures and building tours by local experts in architecture, city planning, and history. The trip included tours around the surrounding landscape of the Cape Flats to build an all encompassing understanding of Cape Town. The class held community workshops with residents in the township of Masiphumelele, an apartheid created township which has recently been devastated by fire. Here students saw a variety of design approaches to the housing crisis, from government projects to bottom-up initiatives, while having an active role in the shaping of this township.