3rd International Architectural Education Summit – Berlin 2013

Image:  www.ancb.de

In September 2013 I was honoured to be invited as a speaker at the 3rd International Architectural Education Summit in Berlin:

Conceptualised and organised by UCLA Department of Architecture and Urban Design, Los Angeles; ANCB The Metropolitan Laboratory, Berlin; IE School of Architecture, Madrid in collaboration with the Cassiopeia Foundation, Düsseldorf. The summit provided a platform for exploring approaches to address new directions in architecture education.
 
It broadened and deepened the continuous ANCB debate, which started with its inaugural symposium ‘Educating the Global Architect’ in 2009. The 3rd IAES in Berlin focused on the acute issues at the intersection of three thematic panels: ‘The Role of Alternative Architecture Education Platforms’, ‘Interdisciplinary Strategies in Architecture Education’ and ‘Collaboration between Architecture Education and Non-Academic Partners’. 
 
The summit was dedicated to fostering a constructive dialogue between leading academics, practitioners, policy makers and industry representatives concerned with ideas to take architecture education forward.
 
* taken from http://www.ancb.de/sixcms/detail.php?id=9708635#.U9er2PmSx8E

My Presentation

I was asked to speak about my work and the role of architecture in education nature of Architectural teaching and research in South Africa:

 
 
If you cannot see the video, you can watch it here:
 
or here:
Understandably the topics I put forward around emergent design, socio-technical processes and civil based engagement were not on the main agenda, with the large debates discussing robotics in architecture, funding models through research and a large interest in Eastern Asian Urbanism and Architecture.

The highlight of the conference was my opportunity to present alongside those who I had studied for so long, most notably Tatjana Schneider, who’s amazing work with Jeremy Till through the Spatial Agency has guided so much of my research.

It was quite difficult to be comfortable at such an event as the youngest person there (as well as the only African) but on a whole those that I did connect with were very welcoming and open to discussion.
 

Image:  www.ancb.de
 

Image:  www.ancb.de

 
Event Photos
Image:  www.ancb.de
image:  www.ancb.de
image:  www.ancb.de
image:  www.ancb.de
image:  www.ancb.de
image:  www.ancb.de

Urban Think Tank – Empower Shack Summer School

After a chance meeting with Alfredo Brillemburg and Hubert Klumpner of  Urban think Tank in Berlin during the (in)formal City Programme I was invited to present some of my work to their summer school in Glarus, Switzerland shortly after the 3rd Architectural Education Summit in Berlin.

The summer school intended to oversee the design and construction of double storey ‘shack’for a site in Cape Town’s Kayalitsha. Students were facilitated to work with a local NGO under the South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance alongside residents of the settlement who were flown out to Zurich.
By chance I had worked in this very settlement with the invited resident, Phumezo, and could offer critical insight into the context.
Socio-Technical Design Presentation
 
I was given this opportunity to share some of my experiences with the Summer School Class in the first few days of the 2 week Course. Here I shared the story of 1to1 – Agency of Engagement and how we learned through critical engagement crucial socio-technical skills that guide our work today.
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
The summer school had many other guest presenters including Heinrich Wolf who presented an in-depth and beautifully critical view on the spatial and political landscape of South Africa.
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/

I had to leave after 3 days of discussion and critting with the students, but the work continued on. 
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/

Image:http://www.empowershack.com/
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
 
The team then took the design to Cape Town and built the first  proto-type in Phumezo’s house.
 
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Followed closely by an exhibition…
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Image: http://www.empowershack.com/
Technical versus Socio-Technical:
 
I was highly appreciative of the invitation to contribute to the Summer School by such an acclaimed entity as Urban Think Tank – the course was run well and the students showed a great energy. While I feel my addition to the process was minimal, I do hold some reservation to the process that such initiatives are conducted:
 
The housing issues in South Africa are complex and mired in a difficult social history. The efforts by local NGO’s are commendable, but sometimes can miss the bigger picture that the housing issues we face here are not technical – we have proven that as a country we can deliver technical delivery with over 2.3 million homes delivered  with a Housing backlog that is bigger now, than it was in 1994 according to the latest statistics (2013). 
 
In my opinion we, as a country,  are missing the necessary systems to deliver not just housing but re-developed landscapes that are still spatially unjust and unequally serviced. To address these missing systems we need additional modes of spatial practice and spatial design in South Africa. 
 
Technical design systems are part of this process, but I feel that too much focus and promise is often held in a ‘better’system or better development aid product. My faith lies in better ways of designing and engaging with this issue.
 
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I respect the fact that the Empower Shack Team went and constructed the prototype in South Africa with the South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance’s support. I was not in agreement in the way that the local partner NGO within the alliance included the residents of BT Section – it felt token and not truly co-productive, but this remains my on-going critique of this NGO who I’m sure have good intentions.
 
What I do commend the Empower Shack Design, is that it does attempt to respond to existing systems, with the input from local NGO’s, but having come from such a product based beginning I feel the result is a ‘product’- perhaps from this point it can begin to grown into a locally merged system?
I look forward to seeing more come from this project and wish the team best of luck with such a difficult task.

Academic Paper: Architectural Design in Response to Vulnerable Networks

Title:        
 
Architectural Design in Response to Vulnerable Networks
Publisher/Conference Sustainable Human(e) Settlments: The Urban Challenge – ISBN: 978-0-620-54069-8

 

Author(s): Ida Breed and Jhono Bennett

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA 2012

 
Abstract:

This article maintains the importance of a contextual and humanist understanding for the design of public space through the incorporation of concrete and changing realities in the analysis of the urban environment. In an attempt to reach a greater understanding of the construction of space through social networks, qualitative fieldwork methods are used to document the flows of social process and physical matter in the immediate context of the two chosen sites for intervention. The importance of these networks for the design of built form and space are determined for each scenario.

The research underpins the design relevance in architecture (and contemporary urban life) of social activity, movement, temporality versus permanence (in form), and mobility versus fixity (in location). It places in question the traditional role and definition of architecture and their present relevance in the developing world. The result is an alternative set of considerations that define the architectural brief assuring: integration with the public realm; inclusion of emergent functions; and awareness of the importance of temporality and flexibility (with regard spatial structure and appropriation). The first case study is an urban industrial area and the second a peripheral, informal urban area. Both examples are situated in the city of Pretoria within the greater Tshwane Metropolitan Area.

Key words: Architecture; Urban Space; Emergence; Qualitative; Networks; Developing.

 

Academic Paper: The Design of Urban Form as Response to Elusive Patterns and Networks

Author(s):     Ida BreedMias Claasens and Jhono Bennett

FLORENCE, 2012

Abstract:

 

This article maintains the importance of a contextual and humanist understanding for the design of public space through the incorporation of concrete and changing realities in the analysis of the urban environment. In an attempt to reach a greater understanding of the construction of space through social networks, qualitative fieldwork methods are used to document the flows of social process and physical matter in the immediate context of the two chosen sites for intervention. The importance of these networks for the design of built form and space are determined for each scenario.

 

The research underpins the design relevance in architecture (and contemporary urban life) of social activity, movement, temporality versus permanence (in form), and mobility versus fixity (in location). It places in question the traditional role and definition of architecture and their present relevance in the developing world. The result is an alternative set of considerations that define the architectural brief assuring: integration with the public realm; inclusion of emergent functions; and awareness of the importance of temporality and flexibility (with regard spatial structure and appropriation). The first case study is an urban industrial area and the second a peripheral, informal urban area. Both examples are situated in the city of Pretoria within the greater Tshwane Metropolitan Area.
Key words: Architecture; Urban Space; Emergence; Qualitative; Networks; Developing.

Diaspora: An Architectural Masters Exhibition

Post-Post-Grad

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?
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