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.

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’.

DWP_Studio Book2DWP_Studio Book3

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

DWP_Studio Book4DWP_Studio Book5DWP_Studio Book6DWP_Studio Book7

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)

DWP_Studio Book8DWP_Studio Book9DWP_Studio Book10

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.

DWP_Studio Book11DWP_Studio Book12

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.

DWP_Studio Book21DWP_Studio Book22DWP_Studio Book23DWP_Studio Book24DWP_Studio Book25DWP_Studio Book26DWP_Studio Book27DWP_Studio Book28DWP_Studio Book29DWP_Studio Book30DWP_Studio Book31DWP_Studio Book32DWP_Studio Book33DWP_Studio Book34

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.

Design as Utility: At the Intersection of Technical & Social: Yale University

*Cover Image: The presentation of Orli Setton & Olwethu Jack on Socially Engaged Design Work

*Reposted from 1to1 – Agency of Engagement: http://1to1.org.za/portfolio-item/yale-critical-action-workshop/

1to1 alongside Orli Setton, Olwethu Jack, Simnikiwe Xanga and Melilizwe Gqobo provided a 2 day facilitated workshop experience for a visiting group from Yale’s School of Management under Jessica Helfland’s Design as Utility: Luxury, Waste and Sustainability Practicum. The workshop sought to make a critical space for local citizen experts to co-produce a set of values and ways of working with visiting international groups that would not be exploitative to the locals or reductive in it’s inquiry.

The workshop produced a set of thinking tools on top of the facilitated learning that took place.

 

Killarney Socio-Spatial Mapping

*Reposted from 1to1 – Agency of Engagement: http://1to1.org.za/portfolio-item/killarney-neighbourhood-mapping/

 1to1 alongside our collaborating partner, Urbanists for Equity, were commissioned to develop a body of work that both unpacked the socio-spatial nature of Killarney, but also supported the social cohesion of the various groups that make up the diverse neighborhood through small scale research interventions.

The team worked together with University of Johannesburg students to facilitate and generate the full package of work over the 7 week period.

Backstory – Joburg

Backstory began as an explorative research investigation into the idea of Spatial Ineqaulity in Johannesburg. The initial project collective was led by Liz Ogbu, Counterspace Studio and 1to1 – Agency of Engagement under the title of ‘ the Unjust City’ .

The project took form between 2016 – 2018 as a collaboratively built installation in Johannesburg’s inner-city neighborhood of Braamfontein, where stories and city-data were unpacked through a series of workshops, discussions, and exhibitions. The installation aimed to bring together different city inhabitants and make this confluence of data and stories more accessible to those who use, manage and make the city.

The installation sought to draw in a diverse group of voices to engage with the narratives of spatial justice at play in Johannesburg. The installation space was developed by the Back Story Collective and offered as a platform to selected (typically students, local actors and activists) researchers who were working on topics of spatial injustice.

www.backstoryjoburg.wordpress.com

The Unjust City

Through 1to1, a alongside Counterspace and Liz Ogbu we set out to co-develop a method of collecting stories from the City of Joburg that ‘ gave soul’ to the heavy and often inaccessible data that city officials and planners use to make decisions on how Johannesburg is run and grows.

The project sought interview a series of different city stakeholders and build a live map from the perceptions gathered – which would be overlayed with hard data. The process additionally used a method tool that collected video interviews from different city stakeholders around the terms they used and understood. The initial engagement with Liz Ogbu was supported by the Mandela Washington Fellowship’s travel grant for the YALI fellows.

The project is ongoing and has a small installation in Johannesburg’s Braamfontein where various tools and methods are being tested in this endeavour through the Backstory – Joburg Project  The current established tool is a visual projection of city data onto a small constructed model of Page View.

ASF Change by Design: Cape Town 2017

The 2017 Architecture Sans Frontiere’s Change by Design Programme took place in Cape Town in support of the Development Action Group (DAG)’s work with their Active Citizens Programme on 3 specific sites: Kensington, Khayalitsha and Oude Moulen.

The workshops’s goals were to support grassroots movements with strategic tools in action-research, spatial enumeration and strategy building across the grassroots members stakeholder and beneficiary groups.

 

The workshop ran for 2 weeks and employed an iterative action research methodology to support the unique needs of each site with the workshop particpants and DAG.


  

The result of the two week process was a set of grounded spatial research that was intended to support the grassroots leadership’s future engagement with the City of Cape Town. Each group developed a small visual summary of the research in a shared graphic language that was presented back to a large stakeholder group at the district 6 Museum in Cape Town.

At this feedback session each local leadership group shared their findings from the workshop and hosted  a small game that was designed by the ASF workshop team as a means to not only share the feedback from each site, but build a dialogue between local leaders and the workshop participants which included City of Cape Town Officals, other NGO’s and other grassroots organisations.

Harvard GSD Research Facilitation in Durban

In 2017 Kunlé Adeyemi brought his African Water Cities Research project to Durban through his teaching post at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. Through 1to1 – Agency of Engagement I managed and facilitated the logistics of the trip, and assisted in the guiding of the learning experience of Durban.
NLÉ is led by Kunlé Adeyemi, an architect, designer and ‘urbanist’ with a track record of conceiving and completing high profile, high quality projects internationally. His recent work includes ‘Makoko Floating School’, an innovative, prototype, floating structure located on the lagoon heart of Nigeria’s largest city, Lagos. This acclaimed project is part of an extensive research project – ‘African Water Cities’ (http://www.nleworks.com/team-member/kunle-adeyemi/)


I was assisted by Adheema Davis and our goal was to expose the students from Harvard to the broad complexities of Durban as an African City while also linking in as many local practitioners, students and organisations as was possible in the 1 week studio visit: UKZN Students, DUT Students, Beset Durban, Cameron Finnie, Mark Bellingan, Doung Jahangeer, Lindsey Busche, Tsidi Moahloli and Asiye eTafuleni to name a few.  We planned the events to offer maximum exposure for all students and even arranged an Archi-Speed Date between the different groups. The studio visit was additionally supported by Sumayya Valley and Mpho Matsipha.
A series of meetings, tours and discussions were planned for the week’s engagement.
BUILDING INDUSTRIES IN AFRICAN WATER CITES
 
“This studio explores the city of Durban to examine the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of urbanization in the social, physical, and environmental context of the African continent. The aim is to build industries–to produce a series of new architectural, infrastructural, and urban solutions learning from the local environment with a responsible infusion of relevant global values. Through documentation of international and regional practices, the studio will focus on Durban to investigate the city and its edge conditions, to understand its transformations and adaptations and socio political and economic dynamics.
The studio develops models of small to medium scale infrastructure interventions, scalable through locally managed industrial processes and technologies. In an increasingly globalized world, and particularly in the African context, a pedagogical aim of the studio is to also critically analyze the role of architecture, the architect, and forms of practice that offer sustainable values that shape and stimulate development in African cities and communities.
Starting with urban research, the studio will analyze Durban, South Africa based on seven registers: Demographics, Economy, Socio-politics, Infrastructure, Morphology, Environment and Resources (DESIMER). The studio will draw from NLÉ’s African Water Cities Project (AWC), which explores the impacts of urbanization and climate change in African cities and communities, deducing the fastest growing African cities are also some of the most vulnerable to climate change. Durban, a rapidly urbanizing coastal city, falls within the high to the extreme high-risk zones.
The studio team will visit Durban in the early phase of the research. Throughout the research and design phases, we will engage advisors in various disciplines to guide the DESIMER research and also establish relationships with local organizations, student groups, institutions, and partners in South Africa.
The outcomes of the studio will be presented at the New Solutions of the World Economic Forum on Africa taking place in Durban in May 2017. The goal is to escalate the research and design outcomes into real possibilities of prototyping and industrialization.
Kunlé Adeyemi, Aga Khan Design Critic”
Final Presentation of work for critique from local researchers and practitioners.
I was fortunate enough to secure funding to then attend the Design Crits in Harvard as a guest critic and support the student’s enquiries during my visit through a few desk crits at the Gund Hall as well as faciliate a skype crit between the South African students and the Harvard students.
Intercontinental student skype crit

Lukhanyo Socio-Technical Facilitation

The Lukhanyo Hub project seeks to develop a system of support to residents in marginalised areas of urban South Africa through programmatic and built infrastructure. The newly formed entity RCDC are currently working in the BT section of Khayalitsha by assisting local groups through a small scale farming and early childhood development programmes.

“Lukhanyo Hub in Site C, Khayelitsha is a new ‘catalytic’ model developed by RCDC to deliver affordable housing, high quality education, training, recreation programmes and health services alongside employment opportunities delivered through innovative buildings, energy systems and outdoor spaces in economically under-resourced areas.
The system is supported through public-private partnership creating an economically sustainable system through public-private partnerships. The overall system is being developed to be replicable in multiple contexts whilst being responsive and respectful of its context and adaptive to changing conditions over time.”  http://rcdcollective.com/
Through 1to1 , I was requested to support in the socio-technical development of a brief around what the Infrastructural requirements for support in the area should be. 1to1 worked with local planner and socio-technical expert Sizwe Mxobo and Natalia Tofas to host a 1 day workshop in order to co-produce a brief with the different stakeholder groups.
The team employed a facilitation tool developed by 1to1 that used the concept of  a timeline as a means to collect valuable information from what has already taken place on site and how the stakeholders see the future of the project.
The time line structure was supported with smaller toolsets that created a common and accessible language format for different types of people and supported visual and design thinking processes.

The tool was successfully used and due to it’s design has become the format from which future workshops, the documentation of the process and the Monitoring and Evaluation process will be used from.

Transforming Johannesburg: Kya Sands

In early Costanza La Mantia invited myself and several other researchers, lecturres and practitioners to assist in the running of  a 10 day workshop in Johannesburg’s Kya Sands Informal Setttlement through a project named ‘Transforming Kya Sands’

The organisation team worked as facilitators on the project and guided the participants, made up of a mix of professional, government and students from South Africa and abroad, through the the difficult challenge of how to develop and meet the needs of the kya sands residents.

My group was looking at public space and how it would be addressed in the larger project development. The project is still being published and will be shareable soon.

This project was linked to my ealrier teaching with Costanza at Wits in the Planning School:

http://www.jhonobennett.com/2014/09/teaching-university-of-witwatersrand.html

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

Workshops

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.