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.

Sheffield Mobility: Spatial Design Research

2018 marks the final year of a 3 year mobility exchange between the University of Johannesburg’s DSD Desis Lab and the Sheffield School of Architecture.

The broader exchange network, Research As Urban Method (RAUM), includes CEPT in Ahmedabhad, India and Nanjing University in  Nanjing,China,I have been facilitating this exchange and alongside Angus Campbell and Terrence Fenn have hosted and taken part in several events and workshops that aim to co-develop a shared field of ‘Spatial Design’ between the various disciplines of design involved in the exchange.

RAUM is a collaborative project investigating spatial design education in relation to global urban development challenges, and is interested in expanding knowledge about teaching in this field.

RAUM is an initiative by Beatrice de Carli, Florian Kossak and Tatjana Schneider at the School of Architecture, University of Sheffield (UK) and is in partnership with the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology (CEPT) (Ahmedabad, India); School of Architecture and Urban Planning, Nanjing University (China); and the University of Johannesburg, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, Design Society Development DESIS Lab (South Africa). The project began in 2016 and will run until October 2018, made possible through European Commission Erasmus+ funding focused on academic staff and PhD student mobility. The focus of the mobility with all partners will be on jointly rethinking the capacities, qualities, methodologies and tools that spatial practitioners need to develop, in order to have a positive impact in the face of epochal challenges affecting cities globally, such as climate change and social inequality. The outcome will be a joint publication that will document the activities undertaken and the methodologies tested in different geographical settings

Updates on events and activities will be posted here:


The initial exchanges centred around commonality and theory in design, and produced a broad word cloud that captured the links and connections.

The exchange also hosted Dr. Tatjana Schneider who spoke on a panel with students from UJ around what the role of Spatial Agency in South Africa could be.

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:


“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


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:

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.

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: 

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.

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’ (

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.
“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.”
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.

Spaces of Urban Change: Public Lecture

During my work with the University of Sheffield’s Master’s in Urban Design teaching, I was fortunate to share a presentation space with Omar Nagati of Cluster .

It was a very enlightening experience and the discussions after were hugely insightful.

“The lecture focuses on the work, ideas, and methodologies of CLUSTER and 1to1 Agency of Engagement, two innovative design and research practices based in Cairo and Johannesburg respectively. Jhono Bennett and Omar Nagati share examples of on-going and recent work within the rapidly shifting urban landscapes where they operate.

Through their presentations, they discuss the new modes of urban practice that might emerge through an active engagement in the processes of urban change, redefining the position of architects and urban designers. They reflect on these new modes of practice by outlining some of the methods and strategies adopted by CLUSTER and 1to1 Agency of Engagement, as well as key projects in Cairo and Johannesburg.

This event was organised by Beatrice De Carli on behalf of the research group Globalisation and Spatial Practice at Sheffield School of Architecture.

Work with Sheffield University

University of Sheffield – Masters in Urban Design 2016/2017

  I was again invited by Dr. Beatrice De Carli to teach in the Urban Design Masters at Sheffield for the 2016/2017 teaching period. This was done as part of a larger network project that has been set up with University of Sheffield (Sheffield, UK), Nanjing University (Nanjing, China), CEPT (Ahmedabad, India) and the University of Johannesburg […]

University of Sheffield – Masters in Urban Design 2015/2016

In 2016 I was invited by Dr Beatrice De Carli to assist in the teaching of the Masters in Urban Design at the University of Sheffield’s School of Architecture for the ‘Design from Afar Module”. We set the brief in Johannesburg’s Braamfontein and aimed to create a teaching/research model that would allow students in Sheffield […]

Sheffield Mobility: Spatial Design Research

2018 marks the final year of a 3 year mobility exchange between the University of Johannesburg’s DSD Desis Lab and the Sheffield School of Architecture. RAUM #2 Day 1. Rathul sharing the debate on Public Space as a teaching method for CEPT A post shared by Jhono Bennett (@jhonobennett) on May 8, 2017 at 7:12am […]

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.

AT: Community Action Plan Hand Book

*shared from*

One of the most important outputs for the engagement with the Denver leadership was the Spatial Layout for the Community Action Plan (CAP). The layout was co-developed with residents, leadership and driven by the data and social capital built during the studioATdenver programmes and additional work conducted by AT.

The layout responded to key issues of emergency vehicle access, shared space, social cohesion patterns and green space allocation identified during the studios and larger forum discussions.

The spatial layout, alongside a series of support materials was packaged into an accessible and shareable format. AT conceptualized this in the form of a Hand Book that could be easily distributed and used format as a ‘Toolbox’.

A day-planner format was conceptualsied as a possible structure for this handbook, as many local leaders already used this type of booklet in their work. The idea behind the small format, would allow for the books to be used together to forma a larger layout (A1 size) if brought together.

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:

GSA Unit 14: Radical Negotiations

In 2016 I began teaching with Thireshan Govender and Tuliza Sindi in the newly launched Unit System Africa from the University of Johannesburg’s Graduate School of Architecture at UJ’s FADA.

Our unit was dubbed Unit 14 and began it’s inquiry through the search for emergent post-1994 spatialities in Johannesburg.


We did through the lens of Architecture’s of Enterprise and took our 14 students across Johannesburg to explore and search for these conditions.

The students had input from a host of outside actors in the field of urbanism, art, music and planning


The students surveyed Johannesburg using a urban cartogrpahic technique the unit developed. We called this a Landscraped Lexicon and was carefully documented and curated.


Throughout the year the students produced a myriad of design research and explored the Unit’s concepts within their own specific focuses. See the Unit Journals below:





List of student porfolio websites: