UCL Doctoral Position: TACK Network

After more than 2 years of stepping out of my role at 1to1, my teaching work at the University of Johannesburg as well as my practice work in South Africa I will be beginning a PhD position at the University College London’s Bartlett School of Architecture. This position is supported by the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions EU funding through the TACK/ Communities of Tacit Knowledge Network and will see me engaging with a dynamic and committed network of scholars:

‘TACK / Communities of Tacit Knowledge: Architecture and its Ways of Knowing’ is a newly funded Innovative Training Network, as part of the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions within the European Framework Program Horizon 2020. It trains young researchers in understanding the specific knowledge that architects use when designing buildings and cities. TACK gathers ten major academic institutions, three leading cultural architectural institutions as well as nine distinguished architecture design offices. Collaboratively these partners offer an innovative PhD training program on the nature of tacit knowledge in architecture, resulting in ten parallel PhD projects.

The research program consists of ten PhD projects, which are pursued by ten PhD candidates, hosted by ten academic partners. While the individual PhD projects constitute independent doctoral projects in their own right, nine of these can (in terms of content) be grouped in three clusters:

  1. Approaching Tacit Knowledge: These PhD projects approach tacit knowledge from historical and theoretical perspectives
  2. Probing Tacit Knowledge: These PhD projects examine tacit knowledge through concrete cases
  3. Situating Tacit Knowledge: These PhD projects situate tacit knowledge in architecture by developing innovative concepts and methods

I have been placed in the Situating Tacit Knowledge Cluster under Dr. Peg Rawes under the Values Project.

” The three PhD candidates working on this research cluster will develop new theoretical concepts and new heuristic approaches to examine how tacit knowledge is understood in architectural practice and how it can be made explicit and communicated. They will investigate how value-systems that are inherent to specific cultural contexts (for instance concerning the public role of the architect) affect the perception and reception of tacit knowledge in architecture, and examine how self-reflexivity can sharpen the understanding of the functioning of tacit knowledge.”

The 3 year programme is jam packed with conferences, symposia and meetings and actively encourages and support mobility across the network, including a practical secondment as well as secondment to cultural institute in the network.

It has been a long journey to reach this point, and I am grateful to the individuals and institutes who supported me in this difficult transition period as well as those (who have been personally acknowledged these last months) who played such an important role in shaping my research and practice through the opportunities offered. Thank you.

Sheffield Mobility: Spatial Design Research

2018 marks the final year of a 3 year mobility exchange between the University of Johannesburg’s DSD Desis Lab and the Sheffield School of Architecture.

The broader exchange network, Research As Urban Method (RAUM), includes CEPT in Ahmedabhad, India and Nanjing University in  Nanjing,China,I have been facilitating this exchange and alongside Angus Campbell and Terrence Fenn have hosted and taken part in several events and workshops that aim to co-develop a shared field of ‘Spatial Design’ between the various disciplines of design involved in the exchange.

RAUM is a collaborative project investigating spatial design education in relation to global urban development challenges, and is interested in expanding knowledge about teaching in this field.

RAUM is an initiative by Beatrice de Carli, Florian Kossak and Tatjana Schneider at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield (UK) and is in partnership with the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) (Ahmedabad, India); School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University (China); and the University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Design Society Development DESIS Lab (South Africa). The project began in 2016 and will run until October 2018, made possible through European Commission Erasmus+ funding focused on academic staff and PhD student mobility. The focus of the mobility with all partners will be on jointly rethinking the capacities, qualities, methodologies and tools that spatial practitioners need to develop, in order to have a positive impact in the face of epochal challenges affecting cities globally, such as climate change and social inequality. The outcome will be a joint publication that will document the activities undertaken and the methodologies tested in different geographical settings

Updates on events and activities will be posted here: https://researchingarchitectureasurbanmethod.wordpress.com/


The initial exchanges centred around commonality and theory in design, and produced a broad word cloud that captured the links and connections.


The exchange also hosted Dr. Tatjana Schneider who spoke on a panel with students from UJ around what the role of Spatial Agency in South Africa could be.

Mandela Washington Fellowship

In 2016 I was selected as 1 of 63 South Africans to join the 1000 Young African Leaders of the 2016 Mandela Washington Fellowship. The fellowship is a flagship project of the American State Department and a personal project of former American president Barack Obama.

The fellowship itself is part of the broader Young AfricanLeadership Initiative (YALI) and the focal point centres around a 6-week placement in an American University alongside 25 other Young African Leaders from various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
I was fortunate enough to be placed at the University of California – Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and spent a difficult but rewarding 6 weeks learning the principles and exposure of what African leadership entails.


I was blown away by the achievements and practices of my fellows in the programme and learnt more from the conversations over coffee and long bus trips across San Francisco about my own home country than the 6 weeks of lectures and workshops from Berkeley’s finest – something we were told would happen on day one by our host.
The placement culminated in a 4 day seminar in Washington DC where all 1000 fellows converged into a single hotel conference venue to attempt to meet each other and the promise of ‘ meeting’ then president Barack Obama in the Town Hall. I never the left the hotel, spending most of my time in the lobby meeting and laughing with the 1000 other fellows, sharing stories about the placements, our plans for our return and enjoying our last few days as fellows in the U.S.
On return the fellowship has supported me with mentors, business coaches, many opportunities to apply for funding and practicums, some of which I successfully qualified for (See BackStory and my practicum with the South African Cities Network) and most importantly the most valuable platform in understanding my country – a 500 message a day Whatsapp group governed by 63 other passionate South Africans who have become my guides in personal and professional development.


My fellowship ended this year at a very heart sore conference in Johannesburg this year, but as I was reminded at our goodbyes: once a YALI, always a YALI – or blood in, blood out.


Spatial Design Teaching Research

2015 has proven to be a very busy year with several teaching, learning and research projects lining up around the idea of pedagogy and design research.
A joint research and experiential exchange arranged between SDI International, the South Africa SDI Alliance and myself in regard to developing a similar network in South Africa.
London – Part 1
Through an agreement with the various supporters, I arranged to stop over in London en route to the later part of this trip in order to joing my colleagues from the University of Johannesburg who are busy initiating a paradigm shift in it’s post graduate programme of Architecture and arranged several visits to School’s of Architecture in London during the Summer Festival of Architecture to develop a further understanding of the Unit System.
House Boat visit with friends in London
Summer Exhibition through the street facade
University of Johannesburg colleagues touring London Met with staff members
Jeremy Till’s Unit

The AA

Boston, USA
In order to break the long trip up for medical reason’s I managed to arrange a short stay in Boston, where I visited several friends involved in Architecture and global urbanism
Diller Schofield
The Big Dig common space
The New England Holocaust Memorial by South African Stanley Saitowitz
Media Lab with Carsen Smuts

Harvard GSD

Too happy to see even Harvard still uses thumb tacks
New York
When your offered to see the sites by yacht captain….

Columbia University – GSAPP

Happy to see messy studios

The High Line

The KV Leuvan and the University of Guayaquil arranged an intensive summer school that I was fortunate enough to be selected for their scholarship programme and attend.
London – Part 2
To make and break the return trip home for the same medical reasons, a second visit to London was arranged, where I got to meet up with several key practitioners such as Julia King, who had just completed an exciting Design/Build with the Bartlett School of Architecture’s undergraduate department.
The Barbican, because
Nairobi – Unit 2 Field Trip
By chance the UJ Unit 2 field trip ended up fitting perfectly onto the tail end of this trip and I met the unit in Nairobi, and led the week-long experience with my colleagues Dr. Amira Osman

After Thought

Being positioned so isolated in the ‘global south’ we don’t get to see in person such a diversity of approaches, values and work – this trip exposed me to such a vast array of work and practices that I now understand has deepened my position and values in regard to design & practice.

Designing Inclusion Summer School: Guayaquil, Ecaudor

I was fortunate enough to be selected for the scholarship programme to attend the 2015 Designing Inclusion Summer School in Gauyaquil, Ecuador by KV Leuven in conjunction with the local University of Guayaquil.

The Summer School aimed to expose participants to the complexity of working within Guayaquil’s current development phase while attending public lectures and classes on ecological urbanism by several keynote speakers and panellists.
The workshop sought to use design as a tool to mitigate the difficulty of the government programmes to protect the ecological systems of Guayaquil while engaging with economically, environmentally and socially vulnerable groups of people who live in close proximity to such systems.

This summer school aims to provide professionals engaged in environmental planning and urban development with the critical tools to design and manage an integrated provision of both housing and ecological infrastructure. Its goals are premised on the lack of scalar integration and participatory planning in the implementation of large-scale and capital-intensive ecological mega-projects in the global South – and in Ecuador more particularly. Indeed, the emergence of ecological mega-projects in the global South is undeniable.

Their implementation in the context of rapid growth, consolidated self-building practices and increasing inequality holds innumerable threats to equitable urban development. Co-producing ecological urbanism for inclusive city transformation is therefore an essential skill for engendering meaningful social and physical change. With the ‘global city’ discourse strongly impacting on the governance of urban eco-restoration and residential developments in many cities, the delineation of alternative ecological management strategies and housing typologies remains largely neglected.

In Ecuador, the Buen Vivir concept has bred many promises to promote alternative forms of development and spread well-being across the country’s human settlements. In line with this agenda, Ecuador’s largest city and port has been subject to significant transformations, out of which the most prominent is the Guayaquil Ecologico.

University of Guayaquil
The first few days were spent on several immersive site visits to explore the Guayaquil Ecologico.  projects and subsequent public spaces that emerged from such initiatives.
Heavily controlled ‘public space
Market Traders strictly controlled in such public spaces
The Malecon (waterfront) project near the historical sector of Guaqyuil
Guayquil Relocation settlements (RDP)
Public Spaces in Guaqyuil are seen more in Shopping Center’s (Similar to RSA)
Gated Communities are as common as in Johannesburg and prolific on the city edges.
Environmentally vulnerable residents of the river edges
Evicted residents, pressure put on by government and local developers
Some public spaces work better than others
Such as this heavily controlled ‘public park’
Fisherman’s livelihoods were most crucially affected by the issues of urbanisation, and predicted climate change
Local residents took us around their neighbourhoods
A ‘public space’project that sought to create better waterfront space
residents were encouraged to paint their houses to look ‘nicer’
The separation of waterfront from the neighbourhood was very clear.
Each day was spent either on field or in intense lectures and presentations, ending normally around 8pm. The organisers arranged special headsets for translation between English and Spanish.
Tramos 8
After the initial site visits and lectures, we were assigned various sites and into groups to begin working with the residents of facing immediate threats of eviction and climate change.
Our group working with the local community leader, an advocate and activist.
Various housing conditions
Various housing conditions
Public spaces in streets change daily
The proximity to the river was a health and security risk to some, but a livelihood to others
Construction typologies varied massively
Local residents took us around explaining in detail the various challenges faced

A local architect had been commissioned to design a vision of little Venice that the residents of  Tramos 8 were pushing local government for
The work
Our task was to take the immersive research done with residents and transform their needs and vision into a set of design strategies that took into account climate change, a relationship to ecological systems while addressing the complex social and economic factors of the people of Tramos 8.
The rest of the workshop focused on similar tasks in different areas across Gauyaquil.
Workshops were held at local houses
Residents took us into their homes to understand the space
The street facades were a crucial aspect of security and social capital
But mostly people turned their backs to the river
Our team sought to understand public space and design accordingly

This was done with several methods of data capturing


Our work was presented in a series of workshops held at the University and in the local neighbourhoods.

Strategy Image – Existing Condition
Strategy Image – Proposed Design Strategy

Our strategies were presented in this format, which did not work so well in the first iteration due to various miscommunication and translation errors.

But after this initial meeting, our team focused on smaller working groups and spent the remainder of the week working on site in more engaged workshops.

Here with more engaged residents we uncovered valuable information about the area, while developing a stronger communication tool set and focusing in on examples of upgrading such as the fisherman.

Interviews with the fisherman families

Final Workshop 

After a very intense 2 weeks of non-stop work we presented the co-developed scheme to the residents alongside the architect who commissioned the original ‘Little Venice’ scheme.

Tramos 8 final presentation posters depicting the development strategy
Image from final design strategy
The presentation was much better received in this 1to1 format, than in the large presentation arena
Our team returned to Tramos 8 to present the whole programmes findings to residents in their neighborhood.
Position & Values
As a non-Spanish speaker I was forced to take a backseat in this process and contribute where I could technically and with some workshop tools. This position forced me to reflect on the manner in which I approach such design challenges in the face of the summer school:
As a designers we are forced to enact our own values and understanding through design decision but with this, we are complicit in this action of forcing our own values on people who may not share such social, cultural or economic values.
Our position as architects trains us in a common language of speaking through design drawings which again, is not a language shared by non-designers, yet we struggle to see this and blame people for not understanding our vision because they cannot read such drawings.
I was surprised that such ideas were so hard to discuss with a group of 40 designers who I would assume would be more reflective on the position of privilege they unwittingly hold.
I was also taken back by the manner in which the summer school used design; in my experience design is used as a tool to understand and co-develop understanding and communication tools as well as a tool to strategise future development proposals, but here the design proposal was used as the communication tool, a different approach to my own – but one that I felt a bit strong for such a sensitive context.
That being said, I did see the value in bringing together a group of highly skilled technicians to address a very complex technical design issue, and what could be produced in such a short period of time.
The workshop exposed me much about the role of designers in such contexts, and only cemented my resolve to further develop the role of socio-technical spatial designers in South Africa.

3rd Regional Community Architecture Network Meeting & Workshop: Manila, Phillipines

This story covers the 2015 exchange trip between South African delegates from the SDI Network and the CAN Network in the Philippines.

Manila City

The Exchange
In 2015, a small delegation from the South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance (SASDIA) was sent to the 3rd Regional Community Architecture (CAN) Meeting & Workshop to experience first-hand the CAN Network in action in order to understand the workings of the network, learn from the CAN experience.
SDI Delegation in Manila 
This delegation was made up of 3 professionals and three community members from the SASDIA and were chosen by the alliance for strategic leadership and capacity development to bring back home.
As a team, we were expected to try and understand how the CAN works, its practices and tools as well its members . This would be done during the working while the delegation would be exposed and learn from similar practitioners and community groups who are working on similar problems around the development of disadvantaged communities, such as in South Africa. Ideally we would learn valuable lessons from the CAN in regard to practices of community design and bring these home to South Africa.

Workshop Background:

The 3rd Regional CAN Regional Meeting & Workshop held was held this year in Manila, Philippines between June 16 – June 23 and conducted with the theme: “Together we CAN! People planning for future inclusive cities “

CAN Workshop Day 1
The workshop aimed to:
· Bring together local and international participants working in different countries in Asia and beyond to exchange and share experiences through community workshops.
· Provide concrete technical support to actual community initiatives through fieldwork in people centred heritage planning in Intramuros, Manila and city-wide development approach (CDA) in Muntinlupa City.
· Link with local universities
· Plan new collaborative future activities with multiple stakeholders to ensure long term change
Ultimately the workshop aimed to support the larger mission of the CAN Network which is to:
“..Create a platform to link architects, engineers, planners, universities and community artisans in Asia, who work with communities and believe that poor communities should play a central role in planning their communities, and in finding solutions to build better settlements and more inclusive cities. “

CAN Network Diagram

The Workshop:

The delegation arrived on the 15th, and was welcomed by the well organised and energetic CAN management team.

CAN Members from Bangladesh presenting
After an initial series of presentations on CAN and the various organisations that make up the network, individual organisations of the workshop were invited to present themselves and their work.

Site Visits – Intramuros

Site Visits – Intramuros Workshop

Intramuros Site Visit – Banana City

From here the next 2 days were spent taking the conference on site visits of where the workshop delegates would be working in Allabang and Intramuros.

Allabang Site Visit

Allabang Site Visit – Fisherman Houses

Allabang Site Visit – Saving group welcome

Allabang Site Visit – Saving group welcome

The participants were then broken into smaller groups of practitioners and community members and sent to stay in separate neighborhoods (or Barangays) where each group would focus on a specific set of issues faced by the various community groups supported by the local CAN organisation, Tampei.

Group Focus Work in Allabang – Enumeration & Mapping
Group Focus Work in Allabang – Enumeration & Mapping

Group Focus Work in Allabang – learning the CAN practices

 Group Focus Work in Allabang – Confirming the Mapping
Each group spent the week intensively working on enumeration, mapping, and design with and for local groups aiming to initiate development energy supporting community initiatives.

Group Focus Work in Allabang – GPS Mapping in dense settlements

Group Focus Work in Allabang – Story collection from residents

Group Focus Work in Allabang – Community Mapping with residents

Allabang in context

Group Focus Work in Allabang – Enumeration & Mapping with residents

This week was also spent sharing knowledge amongst all international participants in such work.

Group Focus Work in Allabang – Consolidating Mapping work for presentation

Sharing valuable skills from participants

This was done while strategically developing a body of work that would be shown to local government stakeholders at a final seminar in both Allabang and Intramuros.

Consolidated Group work for strategic presentation with government stakeholders

Allabang – Strategic presentation with invited stakeholders

Intramuros – Strategic Presentation

The workshop culminated in a social event on the 24th, celebrating the workshop’s success.

Key Observations:

The workshop was highly successful in bringing together community architects from across the world to share experience and knowledge through the mixture of workshop tasks, social events and working activities.

 CAN Practice: intensive workshops

The strategic use of these professionals to hyper-activate local community processes was exemplary in not have the visited communities as passive beneficiaries, while using the work developed in the short time to engage local governance bodies to support local community processes was a highly impactful strategy employed by the workshop organisers.

CAN Practice Capacitation through training

In particular it was impressive to see how ingrained the practices were conducted by both local community support and technical support. There seems to be something in the way the Philippines alliance work that goes beyond technical support and enters into new cultural and social dimensions of such work.

CAN Practice – Strategic grass roots work

Personally, it was amazing to be in the presence of so many like-minded professionals who shared the values of community driven processes and were skilled in facilitative design processes.

CAN Practices in action

This experience further cemented my personal motivation in developing critical co-productive design skills for me and other South African socio-technical spatial designers through community driven development projects.

BYM Summit 2014 – Impact by Design

In 2014 while working and living with the Joburg Joburg Creative Collective  I was invited to attend the 2014 BYM Summit held in Johanensburg with the theme of Impact by Design.
“Every year we identify 100 new young leaders to join our network. The new recruits first connect at our 5-day summit. Here they teach and inspire each other and, most importantly, act together.
After being inspired by established leaders, which have included Ahmed Kathrada, Advocate Thuli Madonsela, Michael Jordaan, Ketso Gordhan and more, the delegates participate in leadership development and lean start-up methodology up-skilling. Beyond the summit, delegates can use these skills to improve their efforts to change the world.
The culmination of the summit is a team challenge, in which the delegates apply their new skills as they work in teams to design practical solutions to social challenges in the form of sustainable initiatives or businesses with a social impact. It is our aim that all viable solutions come to life by entering into an exclusive BYM incubation fund.
After the summit, delegates officially become part of the BYM network and have access to things like intra-network mentorship, leadership development, networking and further access to funding and business support.
Summit applications are open to 20-32 year olds that are African or living in an African country. We select based on the applicant’s demonstration of their commitment to action and social impact. Even though the summit focuses on very practical up-skilling, we pride ourselves on selecting a rich diversity of delegates, including artists, engineers, scientists, consultants, public servants, civil leaders and more!
All summit costs, including lodging, food and transportation once at the summit are covered. However, those invited to the summit will be asked to cover their travel to and from the 5-day event.”

ASF Change by Design Workshop – Quito, Ecuador

In 2013 I secured funding from the University of Johannesburg under Dr. Amira Osman to attend a 2 week workshop with Architecture Sans Frontieres – United Kingdom (ASF-UK) in Quito, Ecaudor.

The workshop forms part of the Change by Design Programme developed by ASF-UK and tested in several contexts including Brazil and Kenya.

The programme applies a holistic and multi-level approach to participative design in vulnerable contexts and seeks to support local  stakeholders through its mechanisms.

The process has been documented in detail by the organisers and can be viewed here:


As well as here: Los Pinos Group Article.

“For the 4th installment of the Change-by-Design workshops, ASF-UK is teaming up with a coalition of Ecuadorian architects, community organisations, activists and academics to develop design ideas for the “Buen Vivir” neighbourhood, that can inform and help shape the Urban Revolution Agenda or ‘Revolución Urbana’ in major Ecuadorian cities in 2013.

The Buen Vivir concept, meaning ‘Good Living’ (or sumak kawsay in Kichwa) is an indigenous philosophy that advocates for social organisation, collective wellbeing, and new ways of engaging with people and the environment. Building on participatory design tools developed in previous workshops in Brazil & Kenya, we will be using the Buen Vivir concept to design an upgrading plan for the community of Los Pinos and a series of project proposals for the Community of Atucucho.

The workshop will also engage Ecuadorian students and professionals alongside the international participants, and will host a city-wide symposium and several visits to other organised informal settlements.

Local partners | The Ecuadorian coalition for Buen Vivir and Change by Design

This coming May, the Ecuadorian coalition will be implementing a series of one-day workshops with various actors, exploring the City, the Neighbourhood and the House of Buen Vivir, in preparation for the Change by Design workshop in August 2013. For images, stories and updates on the communities and local partners visit our Facebook page” 

 * taken from http://www.asf-uk.org/change-by-design-ecuador

The coalition is formed by:

CLACSO’s Latin American Working Group on Popular Habitat and Social Inclusion

CONBADE The National Confederation of Barrios of Ecuador (CONBADE)

IAEN | The National Institute of Higher Studies

UPS | The Polytechnic Salesian University of Quito (UPS)

GBA | The Neighbourhood Government of Atucucho

BCA | The Community Bank of Atucucho

The Community Development Committee of Los Pinos

 * taken from http://www.asf-uk.org/change-by-design-ecuador

The workshop brought together 40 practitioners on the project and divided the group into a Los Pinos and Atacuho group, then into the 4 focuses: Policy & Planning, City, Community and Dwelling.

The first few days were spent visiting the sites and receiving critical input from various experts.

I was assigned to Atacucho, and the community focus group. We were tasked with beginning an immersive critical mapping process with various community groups from the Atacucho Neighborhood.


Each day, we carefully documented and planned the following day with the various teams in order to work towards the agreed outcomes decided by the project organisers and local stakeholders.

We developed various tools to engage with the youth group in Atacucho, and prototyped ‘Atacuchbook’ as a way to collective data.

This process of mapping, researching and documenting was the foundation towards determing the next set of workshops where we would share these findings and gather more nuanced and subjective findings.
Workshop 1
Our team set about building an interactive site model, as well as creating a series of exercises to uncover information from the broader Atacucho Neighborhood.

This set of exercises was conducted in various locations including the street corner to broadly engage with as many groups, ages, gender and cultural sects within Atacucho.

Workshop 2
We continued this set of exercises to spread the net of engagement as wide as we could, and adjusted some of the questions based on the initial process.


Workshop 3

Armed with this data, and a restful weekend, we set about creating the next series of interactive exercises to work through with pre-arranged focus groups.

These exercises had us manufacturing and designing simplistic ‘games’ that allowed us to capture the subtle nature of people’s ‘vision’ for the neighborhood.


Final Workshop

After this intensive two week process, we gathered all the data and the findings and developed a set of ‘recommendations’ that we shared at the local youth centre as part of the initial hand over process. The workshop made allowance for a set of interns to remain after this engagement to further develop these with the stakeholders over a six month period.
co-determined recommendation page example



This took place in both Atacucho as well as Los Pinos and was the culmination of a very intense 2 week process.

Final workshop night


Quito reflects many parallels to South African cities, and offered some interesting aspects of social cohesion in the ‘mingas’ (social work parties) that allowed government tactical ways to recognise ‘community’ and work through towards development.

The workshop exposed me to a highly rigorous and complex process that truly engaged with the complexity of vulnerable urban residents, while allowing me to part of a process with no expectation of leadership.

I feel there is much I will take forward with me into my work in South Africa.

The (in)formal City – Part 3: Berl-informal Exploits

Post (in)formal City Programme, some of the participants stayed in Berlin to further take in what the city had to offer. Below is a short photo essay on some of the spaces visited in the downtime.

Post Programme Adventure: the Great Cycle Mission

Dagmar Hoetzel, an architectural journalist and project supporter, offered to take myself and fellow participant Claudia Morgado on an Architectural Bike Tour of her favourite spaces in Berlin.

Starting at the Kreutzberg Hill Dagmar took us on an epic adventure across the city’s network of cycling routes.

Kreutzberg Hill



Urban Skate Park
Neue Nationalgalerie: Mies Van Der Rohe
Neue Nationalgalerie: Mies Van Der Rohe
Neue Nationalgalerie: Mies Van Der Rohe
Neue Nationalgalerie: Mies Van Der Rohe
Neue Nationalgalerie: Mies Van Der Rohe


The South African Embassy in Berlin : MMA Architects
Reichstag Building
Old Akademie der Kunste Building


Old Akademie der Kunste Building


Old Akademie der Kunste Building


Old Akademie der Kunste Building




Autobahn Building – the free way goes straight through it


Autobahn Building – the free way goes straight through it


Day finished with a train ride back through the most stereotypical ‘German’ train station.

Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum

As an architect one cannot visit Berlin without going to Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.
Haunting isolation spaces in the Museum
Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.

The space that I enjoyed the most was the outside garden.

Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.
Similar to Eeisenman’s Memorial a column grid is offset purposely to make the user feel unbalanced on the uneven surface. 


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.
This is done to impart the message: That to force a societal ideal from a top down fascist manner  – the experience will always feel and be unnatural.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


The never-ending staircase of Jewish Culture


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.


The Post World War 2 Disapora – note old South African Flag…


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.
This exhibit asks the viewer to put the head phones on, then as one moves close to the wall receptors pick up the frequency and a voice begins to speak. 


Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.

This has the powerful effect of bringing home the feelings of those lost.

Daniel Libiskind’s Jewish Museum.
Checkpoint Charlie


CheckPoint Charlie

The most tourist part of the trip. What is is most interesting is the crazy picture taking, Starbucks, McDonalds and other global brands that dominate this space.

Lest we forget our current fascist leaders – Mugabe hiding in the background

Potsdamme – Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory

Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory

An architectural visit to Berlin would not be complete with out visiting the most phalic architectural building ever created


Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory


Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory


Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory


Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory
Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory


Einstein Mendelsohn Solar Observatory

Le Corbusier House

Le Corbusier House


Le Corbusier House


Le Corbusier House


Le Corbusier House


Le Corbusier House



Le Corbusier House


Le Corbusier House

Berlin Victory Tower Column

Berlin Victory Tower Column
Berlin Victory Tower Column


This wall perceived passers by and responded to their movements






The 1957 Berlin Pavillion – now a Burger King


Humboldt University & Memorials




Bebelplatz Memorial

By far the most moving memorial I experienced in Berlin. The Bebelplatz Memorial commemorates the Book Burning that took place during the Nazi Regime.

Bebelplatz Memorial
The space below holds the empty bookshelves for the 20 000 books burnt. Very powerful gesture by Micha Ullman 


“That was only a prelude; where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people” Heinrich Heine 


Berlin Farewell – 2013

Diaspora: An Architectural Masters Exhibition


I was approached by my first year lecturer, Rodney Harber, some weeks after my final dissertation presentation, while in my home town of Durban.

Professor Harber was keen to arrange an exhibit of the two design distinction students from UKZN who had completed their Masters at the University of Pretoria. Not being one to let go of an opportunity to self publicise I jumped at the opportunity and even offered to design the event invite.

Below is the speech Rodney presented at the opening night ( taken from the KZNIA website):

Rodney Harber’s introduction at the Exhibition Opening on 12th April 2012:

Diaspora is a consequence of an architecture education crisis in KZN, arising from the possible suspension of validation at UKZN, DUT courses ending after only four years as well as the severely reduced capacity for students to get a place in the Masters programmes leading to professional qualification. Many students have applied up to three times!

Diaspora is about our local students having to fan out all over the country, and as far afield asNew Zealand, to further their careers. A DUT student is accepted at UCT this year – he was offered a place at UJ,Pretoria and Cape Town- there was no space for him locally! Every school of architecture inSouth Africacurrently has UKZN students enrolled from this Diaspora.

The problem is that a significant number of these are likely to remain elsewhere, thereby draining our local pool.

In 2010 when I was on the thesis panel at PretoriaI realised that I had taught 18% of that group in first year at UKZN! A huge proportion of that class, who had been forced to relocate to complete their studies.

This is when the idea of holding this exhibition took root. It is to express a sincere thank you to the School of Architecture at the University of Pretoria, in particular, for helping the KZNIA. During the 2011 thesis examinations two students, also from the same first year at UKZN, achieved outstanding results. We are very grateful to Jhono Bennett and Byron Snow for displaying their output of this Diaspora here this evening. It illustrates what has been lost toDurban!

Jhono thesis tackles housing, informality and incremental growth and Byron’s the development of the market atMaputo, a significant design of a complex urban building in a developmental situation with co-operation between Eduardo Montlane University in Maputo and Delft.

Prof Karel Bakker wanted to open the exhibition but couldn’t make it.

Byron and Myself


 Rodney presenting the work
Byron Snow presenting his project


My work on display #1 
My work on display #2
My work on display #3 
Nina, myself, Rodney & Byron 

The highlight of my evening was a conversation with another of my first year lectures, Derek Van Heerdan;

Me:       Hi Derek, nice to see you here.
Derek: Hi Jhono, I never knew pigs could fly until I got here tonight. 
Me:      Thanks?

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.


Masters in Architecture (Prof.)

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