Master Dissertation – Milestone 8

Milestone 8 – Final Presentation
                                                                        Jhono:          My project is about my pole.
                                                                        Lecturer:     Is that all ?
                                                                        Jhono:          And, how it grows through engagement… 
                                                                        Lecturer:     I see…
(Final Crit [In my mind];2011)
Presentation day finally caught up with the Studio, ready or not, we were flung into a 3 day fury of pinning up, down and away.
My work took up the entire venue, and included a PowerPoint portion, a small audio visual table with the film work and the Slovo Park book. I had to plan my position for each part of my speech, how I would explain taking care not to turn my back to the panel at any time, as well arrange seating, lighting e.t.c.
My external for design was Hugh Fraser, and for technical I was assigned Dieter Brandt.
Left Wall


Room 3-15 – Boukunde – Presentation Venue
Audio Visual Display + Books
Front Wall
PowerPoint displaying Growth Video
Right Wall
1:500 Model and 1:100 Lazer cut process models

1:500 Site Model
The Crit
The presentation began at 5:10 pm, where Jankel Niewoudt (who was also working in Mamelodi) and I presented our frameworks and research at another venue, we each had 6.5 minutes to do so. From here the panels then split, Jankel presented to the technical first, and I the design.
The panel then took 5 minutes to look over the work and asked me a few quick questions between.
Pre Crit Tension
I was then introduced by our head of school, Karel Bakker, and opened with my problem statement taking the panel through my process, my findings and the subsequent result of the non-building, but the Infra-Tectural approach I had arrived at.
My design external, Hugh Fraser, then asked me several questions about the use of metal walling system in a cement building, the process I took and role of cement in developing areas. I received a fairly difficult question from the head, Karel Bakker, with the rest of the crit from Alta Steenkamp, the head of University of Cape Town’s masters, and a handful of positive comments from Rodney Harber and Professor Raman from the Cape Town University of Technology.
The technical presentation went much the same, but produced an interesting discussion around the role of architecture in developing areas and how designers should engage. The highlight of the crit was Dieter Brandt’s suggestion that I take this further into a ‘Built Doctorate’ and that the work I was doing should be taken further in the school as teaching topic. In all both very positive crits.
We received our provisional marks at the final exhibition evening the following day; where I was awarded a distinction for design, but not reaching the coveted Cum Laude by missing my technical distinction by 4%.
Although very self satisfied with my distinction, I couldn’t help but feel that I could have taken the Cum Laude. In retrospect, I realise now that my project was not about a building in its form and aesthetic, but about the need for alternative architectural approaches and intervention in South Africa’s fastest growing and most dynamic areas – the peri-urban context – making it fairly difficult to award a mark for such an intangible product, a result I feel rings true to the nature of the year and my project.
Perhaps if I had foreshortened my process and spent more time on resolving a building by traditional definitions then I would not have had the fulfilling and ultimately rewarding design, theoretical and academic process that was my dissertation year.
In all, I feel I have learnt more this last year than any other academic year and am looking forward to a break from academia in the working world.
The Work on the Wall
Problem Statement:
I explained that based on the Slovo Park Project undertaken in my honours, a four month participative research, design and build project in Soweto where we constructed with the residents of Slovo an intervention based on a critical research process, we the students began to re-examine our roles as designers and facilitators of development during this process of total immersion developing context. (Page1)
(Page 1)
In order to gain a further understanding of role of architecture in developing areas I undertook a country wide Research Trip aiming to look into what was being built in developing areas and how these buildings worked in context (Page 1)
I did not find the answers I was looking for, but rather several questions. Primarily:
How can Architecture actively engage with 
its immediate, developing pre-urban context?

(Page 2)
I began my research process by examining the intended users of these ‘community’ centers
And what defines this term ‘community’. I looked at the different tangible and intangible factors of connection between people and their immediate and extended environments – what exactly connects them? (Page2) 
This led to an understanding of these users more under the concept of:
A complex network of people connected together in a layered organic system
The hypothesis being that in order to begin to understand the complexity of the network and determine an appropriate architectural intervention through engagement and contextual analysis – qualitative data can be procured – allowing the complexity of the network to be interpreted through a lens of participation.
Its needs and requirements can then be identified to determine a sustainable intervention that cultivates true ownership at its core.
 (Page3)                                                                                       (Page4)
To gain critical distance from Slovo, I chose the Mamelodi, Gauteng – specifically Mamelodi East, Ext 12 –  as the laboratory for the dissertation and began lengthy on site research, focusing on the cement brick makers discovered during site investigations. (Page 3&4&5)
 (Page 5)
 (Page 6)
Several interviews were held and the brick maker’s network analyzed through participative interview, observation and mapping exercises. (Page6)
This data was then graphically illustrated and analyzed in order to express and interpret the nature of the network and the process of production and distribution (Page6)
(Page 7)                                                                                                (Page 8)
Key findings include:
  • The manner in which temporary brick elements created space and advertising in the cement yards
  • How brickyards came about and the temporary nature of the space they occupied
  • How people bought bricks incrementally and not in bulk as expected
(Page 8)

A niche programmatic opportunity presented itself not in the making of bricks, but in the supply and distribution of bricks, materials and other building goods, mainly in cement and the social role it played in the Mamelodi context (Page 9)
 (Page 9)
Key Findings
During this –process connections between the temporary brick makers and the permanent elements such as housing were observed (Page 9)
This same sort of link was observed between temporary elements in housing and the permanent,
There existed a dialogue that allowed growth through varying states of temporarily and permanence enhanced by the mobility of housing observed on site.(Page 7)
There existed a relationship between these factors of temporarily and permanence, and through various states of emergence these factors manifested in the context.(Page 9)
Extract taken from dissertation book to explain niche programme (Page 10)
Chosen Site
In order to respond architecturally I chose a site within the developing Mamelodi East at the Pienaarspoort station, due to its permanence within temporarily and GAPP’s precinct development.  (Page 11)
After more on site interviews and visits I analyzed the areas in terms of permanence and temporality along the mobility routes, through this I determined the nature of intervention that would exist between the tangible and intangible networks of transport and the brick makers supply and distribution networks focusing on the role of cement. (Page 10)
 (Page 11)
Mamelodi East
Mamelodi east is the newer of the six precinct gap proposes and I made up of more than 70 percent temporary houses or shacks, the  land uses were analyside put together a set of scenarios for development of the Pienaarspoort precinct, based on the lessons found on site and influenced by Gap’s proposals.(Page 11)
The proposal calls for an incrementally phased development that uses mobility routes to develop economic nodes, using temporary housing to pioneer areas and through a series of negotiated responses grow a development from within. (Page 11)
Using cement as a determining factor of time, while the intervention IN RED is expected to adapt and display the flexibility based on the values of the site described earlier on.
 (Page 12)
These themes of flexibility, mobility were then explored in a short film submitted to the CnCI Film Competition. Here a character that finds himself in foreign context and seeks connection to grow and develop. This story explored the nature of flexibility and adapted into a storyboard.
From the film exploration, and architectural concept was developed:
  • A intervention that arrives on site,
  • Then seek to connect with its context to grow and develop,
  • Then begins to grow from this connection
  • Reaching a point of equilibrium, its usethen  diminishes
  • Begins to decay
  • Leaving behind a residue of necessity to inhabited by future users
(Page 12)
This is key to create a sustainable intervention that will cultivate ownership and actively engage with it developing context
The Process
(Page 13)
To design such an intervention, I began exploring the spatial and structural element in context
Looking at the elments such as the containers, zozos, RDP self-built houses and other temporary structures. Through this exercise a ‘portal form’ emerged as a basic spatial element of growth in the context.(Page 13)
I then looked at how these elements could be used to ‘grow’ a building using  Stewart brand’s definition of structural elements to guide my process.(Page 13)
(Page 14)
Looking into architectural theory behind flexible, and adaptable buildings I took Cedric price’s fun palace as precedent focus point, and examined international precedents from Roman times through Modernism into current theories around Nabeel Hamdi, Christopher Alexander, John Habraken and Teddy Cruz.(Page 14)
I identified the the Support and Infill elements from each example, doing the same with local examples and again with contextual elements on site. Through an iterative process of exploring how these analyzed elements could be used as different support and infill roles could be used to grow a building.(Page 14)
It became an exploration of how to allow for the most basic forms for appropriation. I began looking at point, line, plane and volumetric spaces and arrived at the most basic form giving space – the corner.(Page 14)
I took this and explored more design options summarized here and in my book, arriving a multiplanar, multidirectional unit of growth.(Page 14)
(Page 15)
This unit was inspired by the pre-cast concrete lamp posts in Slovo Park, and how they:
  • Ordered space,
  • Created landmarks
  • Provided intangible volumes of appropriation
(Page 15)
(Page 16)
And how if the simple lamp post was carefully adapted and used in its own system of support and infill, it could be used as an agent of growth in a developing context. (Page 16)
(Page 17)
Unit of Growth 
The unit itself is an adapted pre-cast concrete lamp post with specially designed secondary connections allowing for structural and spatial appropriation. These units would work in same way as exiting lamp posts, but through careful design aid social programmes as we all infrastructuctural. (Page 17)
 (Page 18)                                                                                                  (Page 19)
By providing lifting support,being powered autonomously and responding to edge conditions the units give the basic structural and service support need by vulnerable retail networks to develop and grow. (Page 18)   
These lamp posts aim to deal with the street edge condition in developing areas by provides own able public infrastructure in the true retail area – the street edge. (Page 19 & 20)   
    (Page 20)                                                                           
By a system of ownership and control, the less vulnerable network agent would rent out the spaces in-between the units to more vulnerable agents thus becoming agent of control themselves.(Page 21 & 22)
(Page 22)                                                                                (Page 21)


The unit is expected to be used in addition to exisitng infrastructural elements in developing areas to enhance not only the tangible context, but facilitate the growth of intangible networks without destroying the strength gathered in the development process.  (Page 23)

     (Page 23)
  (Page 24)
The unit is adapted from the typical pre-cast lampost, and designed to allow for secondary connections, provide lifting support for owners and provide autonomous services to users and sub users. For the dissertation I worked closely with engineers from Infraset and developed an octagonal profiled unit I called the JB-Spinnekop.12Kn. (Page 24)
 (Page 25)

The unit is illustrated here depicting its proposed growth in context, how it orders space with out controlling it. (Page 25)

 (Page 26)
As explained earlier the units themselves would work in a support and infill strategy based elemental’s Chilean project. (Page 26) In order to explore the Architectural possibiliites of the unit the unit is hypothetically placed on site, in Mamelodi East, Ext 12. (Page 3) Cement is used as the factor of time and the on site-analysis as guidelines for development the project is broken into 11 hypothetical phases. (Page 21 & 27)    
 (Page 27)
 (Page 28)
The idea here is by using key public infrastructure members in system of control and ownership that guide development in a developing area, such as Pienaarspoort.  (Page 28)
 (Page 29)
Here a hypothetical set of scenarios based on the research is outlined following the movements of Cement retailer network as the main character in the narrative:
EARLY PHASES – these phases reveal the intimate steps in the growth, and depict the flexibility of the unit in the process of support and infill of its placement.
PHASE 1 – Independent cement retailers mixed with other retail forms use the structures.
PHASE 2 – Cement retailers form a consortium and get assistance from Afrisam.
PHASE 3 – Fueled by the cement distribution and collection, the site has become a larger retail depot for any consumable goods required in the area.
PHASE 4 – Cement trade has died down, but the precinct has grown into an important retail and transport hub.
PHASE 5 – The precinct has becomes the major transport station for the east linking to the transport interchange planned by the City of Tshwane and GAPP.

(Page 29)

This can be seen in the video below.


PowePoint video shown to depict growth

 (Page 30)
 (Page 31)
(Page 32)
The Cement Depot
For the purposes of the dissertation, a phase was chosen to explore the architectural possibilities of an agent of control being required at a later stage. Phase 3 at the zenith of growth is used, and the through the narrative the Cement Depot along with the cement retailer network was selected based on the research. (Page 32)
(Page 33)
Explained earlier, the idea of a de-centralised factory typology was explored as the expected result of growth, the concept being that the production, retail and other programmes are already being fullfilled in the context and the intervention needs only respond to the distrbituion and storage of goods in the organic factory model.(Page 33)
(Page 34)
(Page 34)
The facility itself is designed to using the principles explored through out the process, using containers as structrual and space forming pieces, the unit as growth medium and the various other temporary and permanent elements in between as infill.(Page 34)
(Page 35)
The depot works within the same principles as the precicnt, in that it operates from a centralised service node, while allowing for levels of control within the administritive and retail programmes – renting spaces in between to sub retailers to allow for a symbiotic relationship between different forms of retail, adming and industrial programmes.(Page 35)
(Page 36)
The building elements are intended to be pre-cast concrete infrastructural pieces such as culvets, culvert bases and road kerbs as support pieces while allowing for infill from the context. These form the loading platform from which the facility is run.
(Page 37)
(Page 38)
(Page 39)

The facility itself is designed with a building system that has been used in the context of  Mamelodi. This metal insultaed cladding system is employed to work as temporary form within the developing area and provide ane xample of alternative cladding systems.(Page 39)
(Page 40)                                                                                                           (Page 41)

The primary proggrammatic function of the facility is storage and distribution. This is broken into long, medium, and short term storage. Long term storage being on the upper levels and facilitated by a jib arm attached to the unit. (Page 40 & 41) 

(Page 42) 
(Page 43) 
The facility is designed to work under the guiding principles determined through the process, allowing for levels of control and ownership within the Infra-tectural units. This is achived through an ordering of support and infill not only in the structure provided, but also in the social heriachies of the proggrammes. (Page 42 & 43) 
(Page 44) 
The only traditional Architectural element in the scheme became the roof. The roof became the symbol of the cement retail network, designed from the portal form and made up of an assembladge of optimized trusses that would be assembled on site and be able to be assembled by teams of non-mechanised builders. (Page 44) 

(Page 45)                                                                                    (Page 46) 
The roof also acts not only as the symbol of the network and basic form of shelter, but an active resource collection element in water, sun and other energy devices. This makes cement depot the strongest agent of control within the narrative of the Pienaarspoort Precinct.  (Page 45 & 46)
Infrastructure as architecture – Infra-Tecture
The dissertation revealed a key question in regard to Architecture of developing areas:
What is the role of Architecture in facilitating development?
The initial premise of the dissertation was to re-interpret the type of Architectural intervention that would facilitate growth in a developing context, in this case Pienaarspoort, Extension 12.
The issue with proposing an Architectural intervention in a developing context is that in order to truly facilitate development bulk infrastructure is needed in the form of roads, services e.t.c. Without these elements it is very difficult to meet the needs of any users in this context.
The dissertation process led to a hybrid of infrastructure and Architectural possibility, not a traditional building as such, but rather a building system. This is only problematic in that a resolved and detailed Architectural product is required to complete the MArch Prof. degree.
I aimed  to resolve this by then exploring the Infra-tecture piece Architecturally in context. But, due to time constraints the author feels that the Architectural product did not reflect the year’s process, as well as drawing attention away from the true product of the engagement process – the Infra-tecture Unit.
The Infra-tecture Unit could have been explored in more depth, but now has the opportunity to be taken further in practice and explored outside of academic constraints and discipline specific outcomes.
Research vs. product
Although the process of engagement and subsequent research was crucial in order to determine an appropriate design solution, it took up more than half of the allocated time for the dissertation year. The time spent on research left minimal time for product resolution.
This could have been resolved by a more clear identification of what exactly was expected from the research rather than an open ended question of engagement.
Although the dissertation process began as an investigation into the social role of buildings in developing contexts and their roles within, it ended quite solidly with a spatial and structural problem.

The problem lay in what does one provide as support, what as infill and who controls what at which times.

A project of this nature that does not clearly address or identify this issue will surely fail as this social programming of space through architectural techniques is essentially the core of what South African spatial professionals need to address in today’s developmental climate.

The dissertation process revealed an undercurrent of uncertainty in this specific field of architectural intervention. Feedback from professionals who were involved in the process could not comment on the nature of the dissertation design in architectural terms.

The actual architecture was more of a service engineering with social aspects than the spatial and structural programming of traditional architectural projects.

Nonetheless, what emerged in the end was an understanding of what questions architects need to be asking  in these types of contexts.