Inclusive Cities: Scaling Up Participation in Urban Planning

Through 1to1 I have been very fortuante to be a part of this global network project. The Initaitve was held over 3 years and supported research, learning and engagements across South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Manchester, United Kingdom.

See: https://www.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/research/groups/global-urban-futures/scaling-up-participation-in-urban-planning/ for all details. Summary below:

Goal: 

In recent decades the world has experienced unprecedented urban growth. According to the United Nations 4 billion people, or 54% of the world’s population, lived in towns and cities in 2015. That number is expected to increase to 5 billion by 2030.

Urban growth has outpaced the ability of many governments to build infrastructure and, in many towns and cities in the global South, provision for housing is inadequate. Consequently one in three urban dwellers live in informal settlements. Issues of insecure tenure, poor access to basic services, and insecure livelihoods are all prevalent. Although local government may have the desire to improve the situation they are, in many cases, under-capitalised and under-capacitated. Existing planning legislation and practices remain incapable of resolving such issues therefore local residents try and resolve these themselves. Their efforts are, however, fragmented and localised.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the resulting Sustainable Development Goals vow to end poverty, to achieve gender equality and ensure liveable cities. Multi-disciplinary approaches that build on local action and create strong partnerships are needed in order to advance initiatives and to address the UN Sustainable Development Goals to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all and to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

This commitment to ‘leave no-one behind’ highlights the importance and strengthens the significance of citizen involvement in urban development. Academics seek to contribute to new solutions and approaches to problems faced by the residents in informal settlements. Universities have an important role in generating, analysing and monitoring data that can be used by policy makers. However this should be done in collaboration with local government, local residents and organisations. Citizen involvement and public participation in policy-making and programming should be nurtured and encouraged.

Aims and objectives:


The network aims to develop the knowledge required to move from participatory community-led neighbourhood planning to city-scale planning processes. The aims and objectives of the project are critical to achieving inclusive urban futures, these include:

-Develop frameworks that build on effective approaches of community-led planning for informal settlement, upgrading at the neighbourhood level, and then scaling these to the city level.
-Locate these frameworks within traditions of alternative planning including participatory co-productive planning, participatory planning and action planning thus strengthening the critical mass of people-centred approaches supporting inclusive urban development. This component will elaborate why grassroots organisations make a substantive contribution to inclusive urban development and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
-Develop a framework that enables the integration of community understandings and innovations with academic and professional knowledge.
-Achieving these objectives requires a combined effort from academics and civil society agencies. While academic researchers encourage civil society agencies to engage meaningfully and substantively, it is difficult to achieve this within academic research programmes. By creating a formal network the opportunity for engagement is created, to deliver on a set of shared objectives and to achieve the strengthening of relations between individuals and agencies.

The network:

Professor Diana Mitlin, Managing Director of the Global Development Institute at The University of Manchester, is the project lead.
Dr Philipp Horn, Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Manchester’s School of Education, Environment and Development and Postdoctoral Research Associate at The Open University, provides research support to the project.
The network is a co-productive knowledge partnership between civil society action research agencies and academic departments. The project combines professionals and academics with a commitment to substantive change and experience at local level.

This network is funded by the Leverhulme Trust.

SDI-affiliated civil society alliances of organised groups of low-income residents are working in partnership with academic institutions. Their participatory efforts at neighbourhoods have been presented as best-practice examples in urban poverty reduction. These alliances are:

Dialogue on Shelter Trust, Zimbabwe
Slum Dwellers International Alliance, Kenya
The network comprises committed partners that have been directly involved in previous participatory planning processes, these include:

The University of Manchester (UK)
The Faculty of Art Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg (South Africa)
CURI at The University of Nairobi
Faculty of the Built Environment at the National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe)
Design Society Development DESIS Lab based at Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA), The University of Johannesburg
1to1 – Agency of Engagement


All of these departments have a track record on urban development planning. The selected individuals within these departments have established connections with low-income communities, planners and urban professionals within their respective countries as well as sub-Saharan Africa. They have previously conducted practice relevant research around topics such as informal settlement upgrading, service provisioning and participatory community planning.

See: https://www.gdi.manchester.ac.uk/research/groups/global-urban-futures/scaling-up-participation-in-urban-planning/ for all details.

Designing With People – CEPT

In late 2018, Dr. Jigna Desai of CEPT University offered me an opportunity to teach her semester course at the Faculty of Architecture in Ahmedabad. This came about as a spin off of the 3 year professional mobility hosted by Sheffield University, the University of Johannesburg and Nanjing University.

Jigna had been running a design module each year in Mandvi Ni Pol within the old city of Ahmedabad and allowed me to bring my own take  ‘Designing with People’.

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The opportunity allowed me to structure a module that was critical, reflective, speculative and grounded in both participatory research as well as design methods.

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I worked closely with Harshil Parekh, the studio assistant, and we designed the course (with the Mandvi Ni Pol leadership) to be as supportive and mutually beneficial as possible. The limits of such work was crucial to recognize and was done early on in the process. (see below)

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The course actively challenged the idea of participatory work as ‘consensus building’ and sought to build a platform for dialogue of dreaming and discussion with residents. The program equipped students with deep exposure to field work, critical self-reflection techniques and discussions on demographic positionality in such work.

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We used action learning, visual thinking and UserX methods of working between ourselves and the resident User Groups we engaged with. DWP_Studio Book13DWP_Studio Book14DWP_Studio Book15DWP_Studio Book16

We co-designed a series of Studio Tools and used them across the semester. This was critical in building a way of working while bridging the difficult gap of participatory research into participatory design(see below). DWP_Studio Book17DWP_Studio Book18DWP_Studio Book19DWP_Studio Book20

The students responded amazingly and put together a comprehensive and challenging body of work that was well received by critics and the residents.

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A full Gujarati ‘hand over’ booklet titled Dreaming with Mandvi Ni Pol was put together and given to the leadership in our final engagement with the Pol. The students additionally met with their individual usergroups and underwent a smaller level ‘handover’ DWP_Studio Book35DWP_Studio Book36

Dr Jigna Desai is still working in the Pol and continues this work (see the orange thread) within her larger offering to the old City of Ahmedabad.

1to1 – A Reflective Hand-Over

After 8 years of being the leader of 1to1 – Agency of Engagement, I have stepped aside as the executive director of the Non-Profit we started in 2010 and begun a parallel (and supportive) journey to reflect and ground what I’ve experienced and learnt over the years into a PhD.

A Reflective Engagement

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As a means of handing over, reflecting and trying to make sense of the last 8 years we have put together a reflective document that we hope will capture and share the experience for other practitioners, our supporters and the people who have joined us so far. (Link here: https://issuu.com/1to1_enyekwenye/docs/1to1_a_reflective_engagement_snglep)

The report is intended to offer a critical take on what we as 1to1 have done since we started, while celebrating the small wins, recognising the various  people who have made this possible and charting a new path towards a more resilient and effective organisation.

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The report additionally serves as a record of our work and where we began. We tried to frame 1to1 in this moment, as we prepare to shift and change under new leadership and a more focussed view on the future.

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We archived and recorded all our projects, our partners and offered a retrospective view on the ‘impact’ that we felt held merit and should be re-examined in 1to1 2.0.

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Finally we looked hard at the pitfalls and successes of the organisation and asked the hard questions within ourselves – should we keep the entity alive?

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This document bears record of every person who has made an active contribution to 1to1 and hopefully sets down the first step towards a better, more resilient organisation.

I wish my colleagues much luck in their new roles and I will always be close by to support and work within my new capacity as Just Urbanism Initiative Lead.

Un-learning ‘community’: Paper Presentation at CSIR

I recently presented a short reflexive paper as a means to capture the learning from working with Slovo Park Development Forum over the past 8 years. The paper was presented at the CSIR’s Out-of-the-Box Conference in Pretoria. 

The paper was intended to give academic reference for this type of work and address key issues in the wording and practice we use in spatial re-development in South Africa – particularly the word ‘community.

Un-learning ‘community’: reflections on socio-technical spatial design support with Slovo Park

Abstract:

The South African city we experience today did not simply manifest in a vacuum outside of the social injustice of the last 400+ years of colonial and Apartheid ‘development’. The four-hour commute that the average Johannesburg city user experiences, the sense of fractured locality across the metropolitans of Durban and Pretoria and the intact socio-economic segregation of townships to suburbs seen in Cape Town are all the tangible legacies of the Apartheid city design that we complicity accept as our South African city on a daily basis.

The knee-jerk reaction by built environment practitioners to this observation is typically a technocratic response to suggest an addition of infrastructure and implementation and not a reform of the practice of city-making. The fact remains that among the large-scale projects our democratic government has implemented we sit with infrastructure deficits larger today than 1994.

The practice of ‘making city’ in South Africa requires some form of radical change, one that calls on all city makers to re-conceptualise how we see, make and manage our spaces. While technical skills and competencies are vital to this approach, the immediate challenge for built environment practitioners can be seen in the lack of skills or willingness of individuals and institutions to engage with the socio-political complexity of our cities. The misnomer that we are dealing with a homogenous technical challenge for a homogenous social demographic of people (or the ‘community’) that can be solved through a ‘better house/shack/dwelling’, a more efficient toilet system or solar panel array, is damaging and criminally myopic in its lack of imagination, creativity or recognition of the situation.

The paper offers a structured reflection on an eight-year case study conducted by the author and his colleagues. The argument of the paper is centered around a critique on the often-misused terms of ‘informality’, community’, ‘participation’ and ‘development’ in the built environment sector of spatial development. The case study unpacks the approach and methods used within the Socio-Technical Spatial Design practice of ‘Neighbourhood Making’ and offers a reflection on critical skills and lessons gathered from the experience. The intent of this reflexive study is to offer a working reference for private-sector practitioners, government officials and grassroots practitioners who are looking to engage informal neighbourhood upgrading in South Africa.

Urban Conference Visual Summary: South African Cities Network

Through my fellowship as a Mandela Washington Fellow, I was able to secure a practicum appointment with the South African Cities Network. The Network is a non-profit entity that:

The South African Cities Network (SACN) is an established network of South African cities and partners that encourages the exchange of information, experience and best practices on urban development and city management. Since 2002 the SACN’s objectives are to:

  • Promote good governance and management in South African cities
  • Analyse strategic challenges facing South African cities
  • Collect, collate, analyse, assess, disseminate and apply the experience of large city government in a South African context
  • Encourage shared learning partnerships among spheres of government in order to enhance good governance of South African cities.
 

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I worked as a ‘tactical intern’ where I provided socio-spatial visual support to a current programme under the network’s portfolio.
The culmination of this practicum took place while I supported the development, initiation and execution of a brief put together by SACN. The brief was to develop a methodology that would summarise the conference proceedings from the 2017 Urban Conference in Durban.
http://www.sacities.net/events-and-conference/urban-conference-2017
The request was to summarise the proceedings in such a way that they could be played back the next day through a video format that told a visual narrative of a possible future for South African cities. While this may seem simple, the typical process to make a video, let alone visually summarise  a live conference can take anything from a week to a few months. In order to complete this mammoth task the SACN secured the services of Marius Oosthuzien, a registered futurist, who supported in the development of  a pre-fabricated story structure that follow the day-in-a-life of a young city dweller.
The idea behind the methodology being that a team of artists/visualisers would work through out the conference day to develop a series of visual imagery that would be created from the conference discussion and be used to fill in the dreaming of t his city dweller as she moved through her day.
This summary would then be converted into a short video story and narrated in the evening and made ready for presentation and discussion the next day.
The local artists made up of Durban’s Beset and Nikhil Tricam alongside Nindya Bucktowar performed amazingly with Marius Oosthuizen guiding the summary from the conference.
The video was completed under great stress, but on time and can be seen on Youtube here:

Co-Designing the Driver’s Seat: A call for an ‘Open’ Approach to Drawing Production in Spatial Design Practice: SOTL 2017

My first singular produced conference proceeding was for the 2017 Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) in the South Conference held at the University of Johannesburg. I wrote a peice about the need for an opening up of how we make and ‘draw’ in regards to spatial design – with a focus on the artefacts we value in drawing production.

The full proceedings are avaliable here: http://www.sotlinthesouth.co.za/images/SOTL_2017_Proceedings.pdf

Abstract:

“The question of what the architect is actually doing … raises questions about authorship. Is the architect a creative author with the will to produce a specific work, or do the conditions imposed on him inevitably result in something interchangeable, something that could as easily have been produced by someone one else?” (Reidijk, 2010, p20) This inherent contravention of authorship, summarised in the prologue of Reidijk’s collection of writings in Architecture as Craft, brings to light a crucial aspect of the built environment’s process of production; rarely is a building or a space solely brought together through an individual’s vision and efforts. As a rule, the built spaces occupied by society are the result of multiple forms of agency and ownership working together at different levels. While this co-productive nature of built space is well established through Open Building discourse, the nature of the design communication artefacts to which are trusted to carry the idea to be understood through remain largely ‘closed’ within the disciplinary boundaries of the designer and select group of building professionals. Nowhere is this closure more evidently seen than in technical output produced and commoditised by large scale design practices, such as urban and city design in South Africa. The author firmly stands by the belief that in order to allow for the true co-production of the South Africa built environment to take place equitably and efficiently, spatial design practitioners need to develop more ‘open’ approaches to the practice in the built environment – in particular to allow the design communication artefacts of their discipline to be co-owned and co-produced in the face of a rapidly urbanising world. In 2015 the author of this paper assisted in the running of UJ_UNIT2; a design-led architectural research unit housed in the master’s programme at the University Of Johannesburg (UJ). The research unit embarked on an exploration of new forms of design and building exposing the nature of agency through the levels that make up the South African built environment. This experience, combined with the author’s personal work in providing socio-technical support to the grass-roots international organisation Slum/Shack Dwellers International, provide the experiential reference to support the above stated belief. This paper will examine two projects conducted through the author’s own teaching and design practice that attempted to change the manner in which designer’s see and control design communication artefacts. A summary of these experiences will then be outlined through a call for design practitioners to develop their own means of sharing control not only in the spatial drawing artefact, but in the design itself. This is done with the hope of supporting a growing national movement that seeks to responsibly relinquish power through design in the aim of achieving social and spatial justice in South Africa

Citation:

Bennett, J. (2017) ‘Co-Designing the Driver’s Seat: A call for an “Open” Approach to Drawing Production in Spatial Design Practice’, in The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South (SOTL) Conference Proceedings. Johannesburg, South Africa, ZA: Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the South, 2017, p. 121. Available at: http://www.sotlinthesouth.co.za.

FOLIO Vol.1 PUPAE: Not a ‘No-Go’ Zone

FOLIO is a critical, creative and contemporary Journal of African Architetcure and a product of GSA Imprints, an initiative launched by the Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at the University of Johanesburg.

Volume 1: PUPAE was launched in 2017 and comprises a collection of critical writing peices, photo essays and design research outputs.

View the first issue here: https://issuu.com/foliojournalofafricanarchitecture/docs/folio_issuu 

Myself and Sumayya Valley of Counterspace put together a short writing peice that was supplemented by a series of drawings created by Sumayya from a previous project we had completed in inner-city Johannesburg.

Upgrading Informal Settlement Book Chapter

My master’s professor, Dr Carin Combrinck, and I co-authored a book chapter on the role of architects and architecture in the re-development of South Africa for a book project co-ordinated by the Isandla Institute, UCT and the African Centre for Cities. 
 

The book was published in December 2016 and our chapter was titled: 

Navigating hostile territory? Where participation and design converge in the upgrade debate

The abstract below:

The South African policy landscape regarding Human Settlement development reflects a progressive approach towards the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. With the assistance of the World Bank and the Cities Alliance, the National Upgrading Support Programme (NUSP) was established in 2008 to facilitate the implementation of the Upgrading of Informal Settlements Programme (UISP) which is further underpinned by the 2009 National Housing Code Part 3 Volume 4: Upgrading Informal Settlements.
 
The policy intent is aimed at a holistic integration of informal settlements into the urban and socio-economic fabric of the greater metropolitan area with a strong focus on locally appropriate community participation (SA 2009:s 2(1)). Factors such as the careful maintenance of existing community survival networks as well as the harnessing of local knowledge and understanding of particular needs are given high priority in the development process (SA 2009:s 3(9)).
Consideration of these matters is directly translated into the approach to the proposed township layout of a settlement, which must be done in consideration of community needs, current land use and densities and designing to minimize relocation (SA 2009:s 3(10)). Even in terms of the stand sizes and layout, the Housing Code favours an understanding of the existing conditions:
Due to the informal layout of informal settlements it is not desirable to determine uniform or minimum stand sizes. Locally appropriate stand sizes should emerge through a process of dialogue between local authorities and residents. (SA 2009:s3(13))
 
In terms of the implementation of this process, the Housing Code makes allowance for the primary role players to be the state in its various functions. Resources are then included from the private sector by way of the professional services of engineers, town planning, land surveying, geotechnical services, Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) services and site supervision (SA 2009:s 2(5.3)). Along with the general provision for the housing process, the Act also allows for the establishment of a mediating body (Community Resource Organisations – CRO’s) that can offer a platform for technical assistance to the communities and financial accountability to the state. These can either be the municipalities themselves, Non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) or Community Based Organisations (CBO’s). The prerequisite is that they must be a legal entity through which the community may then apply for this funding.
 
As can be seen from the short description of the policies relevant to the upgrading of informal settlements, a holistic and progressive context is established where the potential exists for a well-balanced involvement of state, civil society (private sector built environment professionals) and beneficiary communities in the development process. Yet, rising dissatisfaction among the urban poor has resulted in an increased level of service delivery protests (Tissington 2011), indicating an uncomfortable disjuncture between such policies and their implementation.
This chapter focuses on two questions emanating from these policies: Firstly, given the apparently benign and progressive wording of these policies, wherein lies the Navigating hostile territory  disjuncture with their implementation? Secondly, do these policies describe a potential role for architecture in this discourse and if so, how? In consideration of these two matters, the chapter will investigate the potential role of young architectural professionals to engage in the context of in-situ upgrading of informal settlements.
 
Interviews conducted with Prof Marie Huchzermeyer (recognized publisher in the filed of informal settlement upgrade), Mr Steve Topham (director of NUSP), Prof Lone Poulsen (previous Dean of Wits School of Architecture) and Dr Mark Napier (previously of Urban Landmark and currently head researcher in Human Settlements at the CSIR) serve to situate some of the discussion in current discourse. Personal reflection on experiences in particular informal settlements further inform and contextualise the conclusions drawn in the chapter.

NUSP Incremental Building: Teaching Module

In 2013, through 1to1, I worked with BOOM Architects under Shisaka Development Management Services to write the incremental infrastructure module for the NUSP Socio-Technical Support Manuel for City Officials in Informal Settlement Upgrading for South Africa.


The Section 9 module visually unpacked the variables to consider when allowing for incremental upgrading in informal settlement development as well as requirements for technical allocation.

The full toolkit should be available online at: http://www.upgradingsupport.org

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.

Academic Paper: Critical Engagement in Informal Settlements: Lessons from the South African experience

Author(s):     Jhono Bennett & Dr. Amira Osman

BRISBANE 2013

 

 

Abstract:
This paper aims to present an approach to design thinking and teaching that takes the students and lecturers of design disciplines outside of the studio and university campus into contexts of deep complexity – informal settlements.
Conventional methods of architectural practice are deemed to be of limited use or value in informal contexts. These informally- and incrementally- developed contexts appear chaotic and of little architectural value at first glance but, when examined closer, intricate systems of decision-making and negotiation are revealed. The quality of spatial articulation that emerges could not have been achieved through formal planning and design processes. The informal process results in a distinctive spatial quality as well as complex and varied forms of ownership and habitation models.
The resultant fluidity and dynamism of these contexts offers critical lessons in design and the interaction between the different decision-makers/agents intervening at various levels of the built environment at any given time. As students and lectures engage with these contexts, employing tools such as structured mapping exercises, a better understanding can be achieved, as well as more appropriate design-decision making strategies for future interventions. By understanding the existing energies, activities and quality of routes, nodes and thresholds within these contexts, architects are better equipped to propose context-sensitive and sustainable solutions.
The intention is to better prepare students to engage in non-conventional professional practice – while the lecturers, and the institution to which they belong, are able to make meaningful contributions to a broader debate regarding the role of the profession and the professional in contexts of informality.
Through this process, it is also possible to provide much-needed services to identified vulnerable communities. However, the significance of the approach goes beyond that and involves the up-skilling of residents, the gathering of crucial data about the context, acquiring critical first-hand experience of the selected settlements; it also offers lessons on action research and knowledge on sustainable and socially-relevant technical solutions. The latter is achieved by identifying possible catalyst interventions, enabling the testing of development concepts through active build projects.
Key words: Design teaching, informality, non-conventional architectural practice, action research, and design/build.