Spring '16

Occupy / Grow / Edit

Designing Housing for Beyond Survival

Design Studio

  • Start 23.03.2016
  • ETH Zurich, ONA
  • Prof. Alfredo Brillembourg & Prof. Hubert Klumpner
    Danny Wills, Diego Ceresuela-Wiesmann


This design studio focused on the development of a replicable housing prototype and its anticipative urban strategy for an informal settlement of Cape Town, South Africa. The studio responded to the urgent need for dignified, affordable and quality housing and leverage the potential of rapid and strategic urban planning, community capacity building, industry and local building systems. Each student developed his/her project through three scales:

OCCUPY – the individual housing unit and its aggregated form
GROW – neighbourhood development including public space and services
EDIT – urban systems and large scale visions on how the townships become part of a unified city

The focus of the studio is on Masiphumelele, a township in Cape Town that as of November 2015 lost 1000 households in a devastating fire, leaving 4000 residents homeless. Before the fire, residents lived in ‘shacks’ – informal structures constructed from wood and corrugated metal scraps. After the fire, these newly formed refugees are quickly attempting to rebuild their livelihoods with any available material, while the city struggles to structure the development with safety implementations and basic infrastructure to prevent more fires from happening. What results is the contested city, a battle between occupation and intervention, leading to the creation of an uncertain urban landscape.

Brillembourg and Klumpner lead students of this class in an investigation, in real time, on solutions for ground up, tabula rasa urbanism while attempting to understand the complex roles residents, city planners, architects, governments, and charitable institutions have in upgrading metabolistic communities afflicted by urban reconstruction issues. They investigated architecture’s role in the context of land appropriation, rapid construction, incremental development, the inclusion of appropriate infrastructure, and the implementation of sustainable densities, all in the context of the three proposed scales for the design studio.



Steve Dijkhuizen

Steve Dijkhuizen

Steve Dijkhuizen

Aline Grossreider

Rosa Steenkamp

Naksha Satish

Chandrabhanu D V N L

Tim Pham