Spirit of the Order: Navigating the what-what

The final exercise in the Site Writing Module I undertook in 2020 with Dr. Polly Gould, Dr David Roberts and Dr. Jane Rendell called for an ‘Artist Book’ to accompany by a body of text to support the work.

password; stayingwithmytrouble

All cohort work is accessiblehere:⠀https://echoesandintersections.cargo.site/

Shared from @postpostpositionalpraxis

This was my first public creative piece of design research and arts-practice orientated work. For this exercise I combined the writing exercise with the animations to produce a curated web installation that aimed to frame the ‘demographic dilemma’ /the ‘what-what’ that had been present throughout the module.

The web page lands on the 4 animations produced in the earlier iteration as the reflective writing/drawings (along with court documents) move on a continuous loop in the background. As one scrolls down the page the text moves between a descriptive narrative of the events that took place in the project.

These are contrasted with a different voice that speaks to my personal experience of this work across my practice. As the conversation continues, it turns back to the work and incorporates the website into the discussion – breaking a digital 4th Wall.

The footnotes supplement the narrative, and offer a mixture of anecdotal historical information in conjunction with insight into the writing’s intent and aim. These are intended to speak to specific audiences.

The writing style and structure borrows liberally from a tradition of South African authors who have merged anecdotal reflection, historical critique with elements of satire or intimate positioning of their story within that of South Africa.

Situating the Research
The work began as a way to re-enter the site of Marlboro South, due to both the physical and emotional distances that have been created between myself and Johannesburg. The early investigations began through an evaluation of my own practice-photo-archive and visited the images that I covered this period of my involvement.

I struggled with the positional aspects of ‘extracting’ from this context tied to the above-mentioned personal challenges in my own relationship to this work, the people involved and my recent move to the UK. This positional paralysis felt crippling and had me trapped in cyclic patterns of reflection, guilt, anger and shame. At a particular low point in this pattern, with the guidance of my supervisors, I pushed ‘to make’ in an effort to break from the ethical rut.

This began with simple tracings, creative writings, role-playing that initiated the first re-visitations. I then began working through physical prints and used illustration alongside handwriting as a means of re-telling the stories of my time on-site. As I wrote, traced, and re-drew the events of that time; the emotions of those moments were made almost tangible while other actions and events made sense with my more updated understanding of South Africa’s socio-spatial landscape.

These exercises were highly cathartic, and almost meditative as I worked freely and intuitively through the tacit act of writing on the site of my practice photo-archive. This form of writing, drawing and working through not only reflection, but towards a larger practice actions and future potentialities is drawn from scholarly work on creative practice as a disciplinary field.

During an iteration of this process that focused specifically on the images that captured aspects of materiality and individuals through digital illustration software that employed a layering structure, I noticed how the drawings created a very simplistic stop-frame. I leaned into this animative aspect of quick simple linework that facilitated a rapid form and intent with slower, more intentional layering and curating of the image. This rhythm of reflection and making resonated with my own natural pace of work and opened a line of experimental inquiry into animation as both a form of reflection-on-practice as well as analysis.

I re-visited my practice photo archive and searched for more accidental stop frame sequences that engaged people, material and action. From these I developed the final series of explorations that captured these sequences. The challenge lay in the limited resource to deeply draw from.

Questions of audience have guided much of the creative process and been at the core of my internal concerns of my Johannesburg/London work geographies. For this reason, I moved away from producing a simple video or interactive pdf and towards a website as the base from which to curate the work. The positioning of the content online felt more appropriate as this allows for a multi-locational access while allowing me to curate the work for a targeted audience of this, the final artefact in this series. The text structure of digital exhibition site borrows liberally from a tradition of South African authors who have merged anecdotal reflection, historical critique with elements of satire or intimate positioning of their story within that of South Africa. The Footnote and Endnote functions were carefully designed to convey both an academic rigor of referencing and linking the concepts and authors to existing cannons of knowledge while speaking to a dual audience of South African and United Kingdom based spatial design practitioners and researchers.

Due to both the spatial and temporal limits of access to my chosen site for the first full online iteration of the Site-Writing module, I used my own practice-photo archive to re-engage the context. As a result, I found myself working closely with these images and through iterative and repetitive actions of both drawing and writing through a blend of digital and physical formats, I re-visited and worked through the site of Marlboro South , 2021. These deeply situated and reflexive explorations through the images of the practice photo-archive eventually led me to new readings of my experience and a form of reflective animation that was both analytical as well as symbolic of other gestures of action in regard to material actions

password: stayingwithmytrouble

UCL Bartlett School of Architecture PhD: Year 1 Milestone – Upgrade

Within the solitary and barren empty ocean of the doctoral voyage, one of the few milestones available beyond starting and finishing a PhD at UCL is the ‘upgrade’. This is an upgrade from an MPhil student to Candidate Doctoral Student and involves the submission and presentation of a package of written work that includes a Case for Upgrade, a draft chapter, an outline of the proposed study and thesis. At the Bartlett School of Architecture this includes a public presentation of the Case for Upgrade and is open for feedback from staff and peers.


Locating Spatial Practice Within the Post-post City: a Situated Southern Urban Design Inquiry Around How

First and second supervisors

Case for Upgrade Abstract:

Full Text here: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/architecture/jhono-bennett

South African cities remain among the most unequal urban areas in the world; the tacit logics of their designed built forms play a significant role in how these inequalities continue to manifest decades after social and political reform. The socio-spatial city-making forces that led to these asymmetries were not an impassive by-product of centuries of segregated development, but were conceptualised, drawn, designed and implemented by built environment practitioners –  individual spatial designers who were socially, historically, politically, technically and ethically situated in South Africa.

This observation is made to highlight an important, and under-explored, inter-scalar dimension of agency between the individual practitioner, the disciplines, and the socio-spatial systems that require more situated explorations of spatial  practice in regards to city-making in contemporary South Africa, as well as in similar spatially unjust contexts. In response to this observation,  the doctoral study will respond to the growing efforts of Southern scholars in developing more locational and theoretically contextualised forms of urban research and engagement and will employ Southern Urbanist principles from which to develop and explore the research questions.

The study is positioned at the disciplinary intersection of architecture, urban studies and arts-practice in developing a situated design-research methodology to creatively, ethically and iteratively guide the approach. In addition, the study will work with a community of contemporary local practitioners through a series of engagements around the nature of spatial design practice as well as a practice-orientated auto-interrogation of my own work over the last decade.

Ultimately this inquiry will attempt to locate and reveal the various tacit values embedded in the how of socio-spatially focused post-Apartheid South African spatial design practice, and seeks to contribute an additional partial perspective to the ongoing conversations around Southern urbanism through the development and documentation of a practice-orientated situated research-methodology that focuses on spatial design in Southern cities.

The work presented was made up from a series of selected design research exercises that I have been working on since early 2020:

Developmental Gestures

A self-critical and satirical reflection on the nature of socio-technical design work in South Africa that examined the various gestures, postures and actions that make up the field of ‘development’ work.

Spirit of the Order

Through Dr. Jane Rendell’s Site Writing Module I engaged with critical inquiry with my work with the Marlboro South evictions in 2012. This exercise led to my primary method of reflective animation that I will be using going forward.

Catalogue of Auto-Critique

Throughout the process I have been cataloguing reflections, observations and self-critique on the visual methods and techniques as a means of building a positionally iterative tool for navigating the demographic and locational dynamics of this work.

All this work is documented on an instagram account I have made for the doctoral design research explorations:


Next Steps

From this point, the next few steps will be to arrange the field work that will be taking place in Johannesburg in 2022 and work through the proposed design research structure.

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?