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
http://cp.media.mit.edu/city-simulation/

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.

What’s Next? 05 – Lecture Series

What’s Next? 05: Lecture Series

 
Alex Opper, a colleague from the University of Johannesburg, conceived and put together the What’s Next Lecture Series:
“The Graduate Programme in Architecture at UJ presents What’s Next?, a series of double-talks by a range of dynamic young Jo’burg practitioners – architects, urban designers, artists, researchers, and just-graduated students. The next generation of talent demonstrates new ways of practising architecture in a complex, rich and emergent society, often with unexpected outcomes. Talks range from the scale of a single-family dwelling that celebrates ‘architecture as craft’ (Studio ZA), zooming all the way out to the importance of potential in examining the Gauteng city region (Guy Trangos/GCRO)” What’s Next? Series

My presentation shared the values of 1to1 – Agency of Engagement through some of the work we have been involved in over the last years.

Image: Alex Opper
Here I presented alongside Taswald Pillay, who spent 3 months working and living in Paris with the Urban Biotopes Project.  

 
What’s Next? 
 
There is still one more lecture in the series, Guy Trangos and Edna Peres will present on the 20th of May.

Presentation: University of the Witwatersrand School Talk

A presentation on the work I have undertaken over the last 5 years around of community centered design projects underlying the development of socio-technical spatial design a emerging mode of spatial practice for South Africa

Location: University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Event Date: Sep 22, 2014
Organization: University of the Witwatersrand

UIA World Congress 2014

XXV International Union Of Architects World Congress 2014

The 25th International Union of Architects World Congress of Architects, UIA 2014 Durban, will be held at the International Convention Centre in Durban from 3-7 August 2014. This is the first time that this Congress is being held in Southern Africa and we are expecting 6000 delegates from around the world. 
 
The International Union of Architects (UIA) organizes a World Congress every three years, and there have been 24 previous UIA Congresses. The UIA is a non-governmental organization accredited by the United Nations, and it represents professional associations of architects in 124 countries, and approximately 1,3 million architects worldwide. The UIA secretariat, located in Paris, is responsible for the Union’s management and general administration. 



The selection of the Congress host city is made six years in advance. At the UIA 2008 Torino Congress, the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) won the bid to host this triennial World Congress with the support of the national Department of Public Works, barely nine years after SAIA’s post-Democracy readmission to the UIA.
 

 



The UIA 2014 World Congress was held in my home town Durban, South Africa in August 2014, where I was honoured to be invited to participate on several platforms at the congress.

My involvement included; a speaker at the Opening Address of the Student Programme, a debater in the Student Debate, a Reviewer on the Scientific Committee and the initial researcher and member on the panel of Warwick Experts that advised the student competition.

During the congress, I presented a co-authored paper, as well as presenting my work in both the Global Studio Seminar and the Architectural Education Forum.

Architecural Education Forum – Education Otherwhere
Global Studio Seminar

CONFERENCE PAPER PRESENTED: 


Our understanding of architecture has significantly changed over time. Having been trainedin a post-modernist idiom in the eighties, one of the authors has witnessed the transformationof the profession and architectural design teaching over this time. Younger architects havebeen educated at a time of intense debates on relevance, justice and new professional values.They are now having to invent new roles for themselves and develop new methods of practiceas they navigate this relatively uncharted terrain.The teaching of architecture in general, and residential architecture in particular, has significantly changed over the years. Rooted in participatory design approaches and post-modern teaching pedagogy in architecture, this paper re-thinks the design studio, which isnow many times extended beyond the confines of the university campus, building metaphorical bridges between academia and communities.
 
The idea of catalysts is key in terms of achieving an intimate understanding of the settingswithin which students and staff operate and where project sites are located. Thinking in termsof catalysts influences processes of identifying potential community collaborators as well as potential project briefs and sites.Some individuals/groups are perceiv ed as “institutions” and champions within their communities: in the sense that they are known, respected, accepted and many activities seemto either be initiated by them, supported by them or revolve around them. Identifying theseindividuals/groups is paramount to the success of a project. 
 
These individuals/groups becomeagents of change. Planning and design interventions may either enhance or undermine thisagency capacity and the potential to institutionalise it. This concept is linked to previousresearch and writing on urban acupuncture and agency in the built environment. Identifying where interventions could take place, what kind of intervention and anticipatingthe kind of influence it would have on the surroundings is critical. Mapping existing energiesand forces in an area may provide indicators as to where input may have the most potential for triggering a variety of responses. 
 
That is after all the ultimate aim: to intervene where itwill generate a response thus allowing more agents to become actively involved in the formulation of the built environment. Key people/groups and small projects are thus seen as vehicles for collaboration,development and learning. This paper presents a process of engagement between the design studio and communities in a proposed framework for this particular component in theteaching of architecture. These generic concepts are reinforced through some case studiesand reflections on practice

The conference was a week long intense experience with an overwhelming programme, packed with inspiring speakers and inspired congress goers. It was great to see Durban experienced by such influential people and I hope the themes of ‘Otherwhere’ carry through long with those who attended.

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.
 
*
 
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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