a South(ern) African Archi PhD Resource Platform

I have spent the last few years navigating the all to common horribly lonely and completed journey of doctoral applications, funding and re-learning that comes from not being located in the ‘center’ of research and knowledge production in this world.

While many amazing individuals have emerged over the years and offered their guidance and support through these obstacles: it really should not be this difficult to undertake a PhD in and around architecture from the African continent.

In response, I have gathered some of these great individuals alongside my own collected resources to lead on the development of a publicly accessible platform to share these assets, as well as bringing together those on this journey.


The website is part of a larger and ever-growing resource that seeks to support South(ern) Africans looking to undertake a PhD in architecture or the related spatial practice fields associated with the built environment – both on the continent as well as abroad.

The FAQ section of the Home Page

This platform is by no means exhaustive & has been built more as a platform than a comprehensive source. At present the resource carries certain biases to South & South(ern) Africa and their adjacent cross-national links.

A snippet of the South African section from the Funding Resource Page
A snippet of the South African section from the Doctoral Scholar Database

These resources are put together, shared by volunteers and will be updated as regularly as possible. Please feel free to join the contributors to expand and change this, as well as message us with any additional contributions, resources or to suggest points to add/edit/re-consider.

In addition, there is now a fully active Twitter Platform on @SouthernArchPhD and a Communal Slack Channel for more detailed discussion with a growing peer group.

Please feel free to join the contributors to expand and change this, as well as message us with any additional contributions, resources or to suggest points to add/edit/re-consider.

Race and the Architectural Humanities: How we (can) research, teach and learn – Bartlett History & Theory Forum 2022

Led by Dr. Tania Sengupta and Dr. Megha Chandra Inglis, we have recently just organised and hosted the 2022 Bartlett History & Theory Forum through a hybrid digital and physical event structure:

“Curated by The Bartlett School of Architecture’s Director of History and Theory, Tania Sengupta, along with Megha Chand Inglis and Jhono Bennett, the History and Theory Forum is being revived this year after a hiatus, particularly as part of collective action on urgent issues.

This year’s theme is ‘Race and the Architectural Humanities: How we (can) research, teach and learn’, understood broadly, and including the interactions of these themes with design and technologies. Reflecting on how these relationships shape or might shape research, design or other forms of practice and pedagogy through inclusive, anti-racist, socially equitable, environmentally just and culturally nuanced approaches. 

This online event – consisting of roundtables, show-and-tell presentations and conversations – is open to all Bartlett School of Architecture staff and students. The presenters include the school’s staff and students as well as key external researchers, designers, creative artists and activists. The forum will enable the school to gather as a community and share the varied efforts taken that address such questions and consider how we might transform our practices in fundamental and meaningful ways.

There is limited capacity to join the event in 6.04 at 22 Gordon Street. 

This event has been oranised by Tania Sengupta, Megha Chand Inglis and Jhono Bennett. The digital facilitator will be Maxwell Mutanda. Visual Design by Ecem Ergin. “

The full event programme can be downloaded here

The excellent graphic design work was undertaken by Ecem Egrin, while Maxwell Mutanda and I facilitated both a digital and physical summary space for the session and captured the day’s discussion live via a Miro Board.

Live Digital Scribbing of the full day

In addition I presented my own doctoral work through the specific focus on positionality and my research titled: Navigating the What-What: A situated Southern urban design inquiry around how

In all, the day was highly successful, and has placed a solid foundation to continue this work outwards into other areas of focus and dissemination across the school and wider faculty.

Graphic design work by Ecem Egrin

1to1 2.0 – a new chapter

1to1 - Agency of Engagement


1to1 began in 2010 when a group of students from a South African university were given an opportunity towork with the residents and leadership of Slovo Park, theSlovo Park Development Forum, as part of their masters in architecture programme.

During the initial project of co-designing and co-building a small tactical intervention in Slovo Park, theSlovo Hall,the group were exposed to another way of working and city-making, as people first then as practitioners – they sought to grow this additional mode of practice into something that could support similar projects while creating a platform for engagement with other stakeholders and students. This initial student group went on to develop the1to1 Student Groupinto 1to1 – Agency of Engagement andregister the organisation in 2012 as legal entity.


Since2010, 1to1 has grown, reflected and adaptedthrough…

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Design as Utility: At the Intersection of Technical & Social: Yale University

*Cover Image: The presentation of Orli Setton & Olwethu Jack on Socially Engaged Design Work

*Reposted from 1to1 – Agency of Engagement: http://1to1.org.za/portfolio-item/yale-critical-action-workshop/

1to1 alongside Orli Setton, Olwethu Jack, Simnikiwe Xanga and Melilizwe Gqobo provided a 2 day facilitated workshop experience for a visiting group from Yale’s School of Management under Jessica Helfland’s Design as Utility: Luxury, Waste and Sustainability Practicum. The workshop sought to make a critical space for local citizen experts to co-produce a set of values and ways of working with visiting international groups that would not be exploitative to the locals or reductive in it’s inquiry.

The workshop produced a set of thinking tools on top of the facilitated learning that took place.


Killarney Socio-Spatial Mapping

*Reposted from 1to1 – Agency of Engagement: http://1to1.org.za/portfolio-item/killarney-neighbourhood-mapping/

 1to1 alongside our collaborating partner, Urbanists for Equity, were commissioned to develop a body of work that both unpacked the socio-spatial nature of Killarney, but also supported the social cohesion of the various groups that make up the diverse neighborhood through small scale research interventions.

The team worked together with University of Johannesburg students to facilitate and generate the full package of work over the 7 week period.

Hactivate: Vrededorp/Page View

1to1, alongside a group of former interns and students, set out to develop a mechanism to support recently graduated students of spatial design.

Through a series of discussions and workshops the collaboration formed an idea of developing a series of action research workshops that give current students and pre-professionals a flexible and open space to test these ideas. The group named themselves Hactivate, and put together a proposal to test out a workshop series of 5 such Hactivations.

So far the collaboration has been able to test one such Hactivation with ARUP Urban Design employing the Back Story installation. This Hactivation worked with residents living in Pagew View/Vrededorp and sought to live-test an engagement process that had residents leading engineers, city officials and urban designers through a guided walk of their neighbourhood identifying area or conditions of opportunity.

The process used the tool as a grounding framework and worked with students from UJ who acted as socio-technical facilitators and method mechanic to collect the findings live via Whatsapp and build a model of the findings that were discussed through a facilitated session in the Back Story space.





We plan to develop this further in the new year and grow the initiative.

Backstory – Joburg

Backstory began as an explorative research investigation into the idea of Spatial Ineqaulity in Johannesburg. The initial project collective was led by Liz Ogbu, Counterspace Studio and 1to1 – Agency of Engagement under the title of ‘ the Unjust City’ .

The project took form between 2016 – 2018 as a collaboratively built installation in Johannesburg’s inner-city neighborhood of Braamfontein, where stories and city-data were unpacked through a series of workshops, discussions, and exhibitions. The installation aimed to bring together different city inhabitants and make this confluence of data and stories more accessible to those who use, manage and make the city.

The installation sought to draw in a diverse group of voices to engage with the narratives of spatial justice at play in Johannesburg. The installation space was developed by the Back Story Collective and offered as a platform to selected (typically students, local actors and activists) researchers who were working on topics of spatial injustice.


AT: Positive Numbers

*shared from www.aformalterrainjoburg.wordpress.com*

The Positive Numbers project was developed as one of the tangible outputs for the MOU through the 3 year engagement with the Denver leadership, residents and local NGO’s. The concept evolved from the challenges based in social enumeration and spatial planning in informal settlement upgrading processes.

The project involved linking the co-developed spatial development plan to the numbering process that typically involved spray-painting numbers on the sides of existing homes.

AT, working with Tyler B Murphy and local residents developed a system of sign making that , using colour coding, linked the spatial development to the social enumeration to allow for incremental neighborhood development to take place while waiting for governmental support.

This short film documents the process of the Positive Numbers Project which formed a part of a larger research initiative in Denver Settlement, Johannesburg in 2017.

The project was developed in partnership with active NGOs, signage and way-finding for residents in the settlement and links to the larger short-to-long term upgrading strategy of the Community Action Plan (CAP).

The Positive Numbers Project was a collaboration between the Aformal Terrain research collective and artist Tyler B. Murphy, supported by Open Societies Foundation: Higher Education Support Programme.

ASF Change by Design: Cape Town 2017

The 2017 Architecture Sans Frontiere’s Change by Design Programme took place in Cape Town in support of the Development Action Group (DAG)’s work with their Active Citizens Programme on 3 specific sites: Kensington, Khayalitsha and Oude Moulen.

The workshops’s goals were to support grassroots movements with strategic tools in action-research, spatial enumeration and strategy building across the grassroots members stakeholder and beneficiary groups.


The workshop ran for 2 weeks and employed an iterative action research methodology to support the unique needs of each site with the workshop particpants and DAG.


The result of the two week process was a set of grounded spatial research that was intended to support the grassroots leadership’s future engagement with the City of Cape Town. Each group developed a small visual summary of the research in a shared graphic language that was presented back to a large stakeholder group at the district 6 Museum in Cape Town.

At this feedback session each local leadership group shared their findings from the workshop and hosted  a small game that was designed by the ASF workshop team as a means to not only share the feedback from each site, but build a dialogue between local leaders and the workshop participants which included City of Cape Town Officals, other NGO’s and other grassroots organisations.

Colgate University Facilitation in Durban

The Colgate University has a global programme that brings over 20 undergraduate students from their small university to Cape Town and Durban each year. These students are exposed to the soci-cultural complexity of post-1994 South Africa and guided to engage with this difference and layered issues through a reflexive and considered approach by Mark Stern and his colleagues.

Based on my experience with the Harvard group I was asked to assist in arranging their Durban visit and employed the assistance of Adheema Davis and Miguel Juan in arranging the visit.

The highlight for me personally was the speed-ate session between the Durban students and the Colgate, we have hosted exercises like this before and each time the results are amazing: as a former student in Durban, we are plagued by a internalised view of Durban that disconnects us from the rest of the world – these sessions always do big work in making local students feel there are not huge differences between themselves and ‘international students’.

UKZN/DUT Speedate with Colgate Students

Harvard GSD Research Facilitation in Durban

In 2017 Kunlé Adeyemi brought his African Water Cities Research project to Durban through his teaching post at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Through 1to1 – Agency of Engagement I managed and facilitated the logistics of the trip, and assisted in the guiding of the learning experience of Durban.
NLÉ is led by Kunlé Adeyemi, an architect, designer and ‘urbanist’ with a track record of conceiving and completing high profile, high quality projects internationally. His recent work includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, an innovative, prototype, floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project – ‘African Water Cities’ (http://www.nleworks.com/team-member/kunle-adeyemi/)

I was assisted by Adheema Davis and our goal was to expose the students from Harvard to the broad complexities of Durban as an African City while also linking in as many local practitioners, students and organisations as was possible in the 1 week studio visit: UKZN Students, DUT Students, Beset Durban, Cameron Finnie, Mark Bellingan, Doung Jahangeer, Lindsey Busche, Tsidi Moahloli and Asiye eTafuleni to name a few.  We planned the events to offer maximum exposure for all students and even arranged an Archi-Speed Date between the different groups. The studio visit was additionally supported by Sumayya Valley and Mpho Matsipha.
A series of meetings, tours and discussions were planned for the week’s engagement.
“This studio explores the city of Durban to examine the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of urbanization in the social, physical, and environmental context of the African continent. The aim is to build industries–to produce a series of new architectural, infrastructural, and urban solutions learning from the local environment with a responsible infusion of relevant global values. Through documentation of international and regional practices, the studio will focus on Durban to investigate the city and its edge conditions, to understand its transformations and adaptations and socio political and economic dynamics.
The studio develops models of small to medium scale infrastructure interventions, scalable through locally managed industrial processes and technologies. In an increasingly globalized world, and particularly in the African context, a pedagogical aim of the studio is to also critically analyze the role of architecture, the architect, and forms of practice that offer sustainable values that shape and stimulate development in African cities and communities.
Starting with urban research, the studio will analyze Durban, South Africa based on seven registers: Demographics, Economy, Socio-politics, Infrastructure, Morphology, Environment and Resources (DESIMER). The studio will draw from NLÉ’s African Water Cities Project (AWC), which explores the impacts of urbanization and climate change in African cities and communities, deducing the fastest growing African cities are also some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Durban, a rapidly urbanizing coastal city, falls within the high to the extreme high-risk zones.
The studio team will visit Durban in the early phase of the research. Throughout the research and design phases, we will engage advisors in various disciplines to guide the DESIMER research and also establish relationships with local organizations, student groups, institutions, and partners in South Africa.
The outcomes of the studio will be presented at the New Solutions of the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Durban in May 2017. The goal is to escalate the research and design outcomes into real possibilities of prototyping and industrialization.
Kunlé Adeyemi, Aga Khan Design Critic”
Final Presentation of work for critique from local researchers and practitioners.
I was fortunate enough to secure funding to then attend the Design Crits in Harvard as a guest critic and support the student’s enquiries during my visit through a few desk crits at the Gund Hall as well as faciliate a skype crit between the South African students and the Harvard students.
Intercontinental student skype crit

Lukhanyo Socio-Technical Facilitation

The Lukhanyo Hub project seeks to develop a system of support to residents in marginalised areas of urban South Africa through programmatic and built infrastructure. The newly formed entity RCDC are currently working in the BT section of Khayalitsha by assisting local groups through a small scale farming and early childhood development programmes.

“Lukhanyo Hub in Site C, Khayelitsha is a new ‘catalytic’ model developed by RCDC to deliver affordable housing, high quality education, training, recreation programmes and health services alongside employment opportunities delivered through innovative buildings, energy systems and outdoor spaces in economically under-resourced areas.
The system is supported through public-private partnership creating an economically sustainable system through public-private partnerships. The overall system is being developed to be replicable in multiple contexts whilst being responsive and respectful of its context and adaptive to changing conditions over time.”  http://rcdcollective.com/
Through 1to1 , I was requested to support in the socio-technical development of a brief around what the Infrastructural requirements for support in the area should be. 1to1 worked with local planner and socio-technical expert Sizwe Mxobo and Natalia Tofas to host a 1 day workshop in order to co-produce a brief with the different stakeholder groups.
The team employed a facilitation tool developed by 1to1 that used the concept of  a timeline as a means to collect valuable information from what has already taken place on site and how the stakeholders see the future of the project.
The time line structure was supported with smaller toolsets that created a common and accessible language format for different types of people and supported visual and design thinking processes.

The tool was successfully used and due to it’s design has become the format from which future workshops, the documentation of the process and the Monitoring and Evaluation process will be used from.