a South(ern) African Archi PhD Resource Platform

I have spent the last few years navigating the all to common horribly lonely and completed journey of doctoral applications, funding and re-learning that comes from not being located in the ‘center’ of research and knowledge production in this world.

While many amazing individuals have emerged over the years and offered their guidance and support through these obstacles: it really should not be this difficult to undertake a PhD in and around architecture from the African continent.

In response, I have gathered some of these great individuals alongside my own collected resources to lead on the development of a publicly accessible platform to share these assets, as well as bringing together those on this journey.


The website is part of a larger and ever-growing resource that seeks to support South(ern) Africans looking to undertake a PhD in architecture or the related spatial practice fields associated with the built environment – both on the continent as well as abroad.

The FAQ section of the Home Page

This platform is by no means exhaustive & has been built more as a platform than a comprehensive source. At present the resource carries certain biases to South & South(ern) Africa and their adjacent cross-national links.

A snippet of the South African section from the Funding Resource Page
A snippet of the South African section from the Doctoral Scholar Database

These resources are put together, shared by volunteers and will be updated as regularly as possible. Please feel free to join the contributors to expand and change this, as well as message us with any additional contributions, resources or to suggest points to add/edit/re-consider.

In addition, there is now a fully active Twitter Platform on @SouthernArchPhD and a Communal Slack Channel for more detailed discussion with a growing peer group.

Please feel free to join the contributors to expand and change this, as well as message us with any additional contributions, resources or to suggest points to add/edit/re-consider.

Diasporic Geographies: voices from the south(s)

Within the Urban Design Otherwise Seminars conceptualised and led by Dr. Catalina Ortiz, I was tasked to work with the MSc Building and Urban Design in Development team in organising (led by Laia Gemma Garcia Fernandez ) a walking seminar with Latin Elephant, David Mcewen and Resolve Collective.

While diaspora speaks to ideas of dispersion or forced relocation, the resultant geographic displacement of any group of people invokes spatial practices that create intimate relationships to place, enhance social connectedness and produce unique ideas of home. Diasporic living practices typically empower and support actions of solidarity and interconnectedness as well as the assertions of cultural self and collectivism that tend to travel with people through global manifestations of community. Very often, these practices create friction within existing socio-spatial systems and can result in strong collective actions around identity, politics, and agency in relation to belonging.

This session will host an immersive and interactive city-walk-talk format that will be led by local voices and actors in spatial making from London’s South(s). Through walking, talking, and engaging with the people and places of this dynamic urban center, we will be exposed to a unique juxtaposition of temporality and permanence, of preservation and innovation and understanding as well as response that are present in the South(s) of London’s diasporic geographies.
In this session we will join a small local selection of spatial actors from Elephant and Castle as well as Brixton.

Taken from introduction text for the event: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/bartlett/development/events/2022/feb/diasporic-geographies-voices-souths

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.

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.


Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture: Critical Practice

As part of my teaching at UJ’s Post Graduate School of Architecture within the Faculty of Art, Design & Architecture, I have taught the critical practice module since 2012 and have been able to shape it each year to the needs of the school.

This year we taught the second iteration of the ASF challenging Practice course and adapted the broader module to include a workshop with various local socio-technical and grassroots development practitioners.

The workshop sought to co-develop a set of principles and guides for architects and designers could work with groups of people (particularly vulnerable groups in Johannesburg) and worked on the back of the 1to1 – Codes of Ethics that have been under development since 2010.

The workshop was a great success and the codes in their first draft are available here:

Full documentation of the workshop can be seen here:


GSA Unit 14: Rogue Economies

Unit 14 at the Graduate School of Architecture is headed up by Thiresh Govender of Urban Works. I have worked with Thiresh on this over a two year period of trials and tribulations and am proud to say that 2017 produced something highly innovative and unique to how we practice urban and architecture research in Johannesburg.

The Unit set out to uncover the Rogue Economies of Johannesburg and worked with a dedicated and hard working group of students in search these rogue forces that shape our City. We were joined by Sarah De Villiers of Counter Space and Valentina Mamente  and spent a difficult but ulmitately rewarding year developing a highly attuned and unique style of inquiry and representation with the students.

Easy Come, Easy Go: Cross-Border Hypertrade by @the_real_kennie_dee #rogueeconomy #architecturestudent #architecture #mapping #southafrica #zimbabwe #beitbridge @act.of.mapping A post shared by GSA Unit 14 (@gsa_unit14) on Sep 1, 2017 at 7:03am PDT

A post shared by GSA Unit 14 (@gsa_unit14) on Sep 18, 2017 at 11:11am PDT

Landscapes for Trust by Binayka Rama #gsaunit14 #rogueeconomy #produce #fordsburg #johannesburg #mapping #axonometric #architecture #architectureilike #imadethis #drawing #johannesburg @thebeez_ A post shared by GSA Unit 14 (@gsa_unit14) on Sep 18, 2017 at 11:11am PDT


LINK IN BIO: M2 from Unit 14, Israel Ogundare presents his project ‘The Exchange Consulate’ on the African Architecture Awards. Please take a look and vote! @ogundareisrael @happeningatthegsa @africanarchitectureaward @act.of.mapping #rogueeconomy #africanarchitectureawards A post shared by GSA Unit 14 (@gsa_unit14) on Jul 19, 2017 at 2:07pm PDT


The unit drew much inspiration from many local and international researchers such as the work of Eyel Weitzman’s Forensic Architecture and produced a body of work that can be seen here:


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.

Colgate University Facilitation in Durban

The Colgate University has a global programme that brings over 20 undergraduate students from their small university to Cape Town and Durban each year. These students are exposed to the soci-cultural complexity of post-1994 South Africa and guided to engage with this difference and layered issues through a reflexive and considered approach by Mark Stern and his colleagues.

Based on my experience with the Harvard group I was asked to assist in arranging their Durban visit and employed the assistance of Adheema Davis and Miguel Juan in arranging the visit.

The highlight for me personally was the speed-ate session between the Durban students and the Colgate, we have hosted exercises like this before and each time the results are amazing: as a former student in Durban, we are plagued by a internalised view of Durban that disconnects us from the rest of the world – these sessions always do big work in making local students feel there are not huge differences between themselves and ‘international students’.

UKZN/DUT Speedate with Colgate Students

Tlhakantsha Colloboration Week 2017

The 2017 Tlhakantsha Collaboration Week was held in the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture over the week of February 24 – March 3.

Over 230 3rd third year students collaborated on a project that emanated from the original FADA Green Week, which brought students together around working on real world issues, in groups, through design with real clients.

The difference this year was that the organisation team aimed to simplify the complexity of the week, and focus more on collaboration, group work and design process, with a particular focus on decolonising FADA. This was workshopped with staff and students and through a co-productive research resulting in a new name for the week – Tlhakantsha.

Brief development and aims:
The organisation team wanted students to develop critical skills in understanding complex real world situations while fostering good design process and group work skills. An open ended brief with 1 major theme and 3 sub themes was used to achieve this:
Theme: FADA-ship – What makes us FADA?
Sub-Themes of engagement:
A series of sub-themes were developed to allow students a broader approach to the specific themes the organisatoin team wanted the larger group to tackle.
Why is FADA? – ‘Accessibility’ of FADA as a student (Design of decolonisation of FADA)
Where is FADA? – Capacity of the neighbourhood of FADA (Spatial design of/around FADA)
What is FADA? – Resource use and management of FADA (Resilience in design FADA)
Students were encouraged to use tools as a means of research, collaborative techniques and design. They were given a resource developed by the DSD DESIS Lab that outlined several key tools for use in the project. This was shared digitally through a website that was created for the week-long project: https://tlhakantshatoolbox.wordpress.com/ Students were incentivised to design and use their own tools in order to add to this resource for use by future FADA students.
Methodology of engagement:
• Tools/Tool-Sets of engagement – process as the ‘artefact of design’ in the form of methods and strategies that are made visible in the form of tools that support co-design.
“In an age where design has been commoditised to an extent that its value is often only seen in relationship to the ‘product’, a focus on the importance and value of the thinking and reflective processes within design are more imperative than ever.
As young designers in South Africa, you will face this challenge in practice, and in order to equip you with the ability to sell the value of process in your practice, we feel an immersive recognition of tools and toolsets around strategies for design is crucial. Tools in these contexts can be understood as methodologies, methods, techniques or models that facilitate design thinking and practice, but can also give value to the necessary process of design and group work. “
– Rationale for tool/method use from Tlhakantsha Collaboration Week 2017 Brief
Intended Outcomes:
Each group was asked to submit their work in the following categories for the judging:
The Final Strategy, a group developed strategy that looks holistically at the identified issues and systems in your project. (40%)
The documentation of the Design Journey which describes the various tools, methods and approaches used as well as a group reflection of on the project. (60%)
Emphasis was placed in the marking around group work, boldness and a specific call for ‘strategies’ – as strategies allow for design students to focus on addressing the identified problems and not just working towards a product within their disciplinary expertise. A sub-set of prizes encouraged
students to focus on good collaboration and design process:
• Best group work tools/methods:
o To the group who demonstrates the best display of co-design and collaborative practice, t his should be seen in discussion/presentation at judging)
• Most innovative & effective strategy/tool:
o To the group who shows the most ‘out of the box’ and innovative strategy to deal with the issue at the hand while demonstrated a grounded and realistic proposal.
• Boldest Proposal:
o To the group who took the biggest ‘chance’ and put themselves out there to achieve their aims.
The Tlhakantsha Week:
The week started on the afternoon of the 24th of February with a briefing session from staff which included an introduction to the brief, a short presentation on the sub themes, and a quick group exercise to get the students mixing outside of their departmental comfort zones.
Over the week long period the students took the brief with lots of energy and colloboration.

Impromptu Fashion from the Architecture Department’s 1st Years

Final Judging Day & Prize-Giving

Next Year…
The week was a great success and we are busy planning for next year. The project student work has been collated and shared across several platforms, the easiest can be seen here on YouTube:

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.
“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

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 I was invited to teach in the ‘ Design from Afar’ module for the Masters in Urban Design at Sheffield.

All the work from this year’s project is documented here, and has the full outline or all the modules.

Based on the success of the previous module and the growing numbers in the class we planed to change the format for this year’s teaching, communication and research focus.
Previous Studio work, more can be seen here: https://walkbraamfontein.wordpress.com

We chose to look at the economic delineation of Johannesburg’s Urban Development Zone (UDZ) as a research focus. This would allow for an easier research lens for students from Sheffield and give an easier means for this work to speak back to city officials and local practitioners as part of the Design From Afar principles.

UDZ outlined with 3 specific site choices highlighted

We also focused in on 3 specific sites linked to local partners: Braamfontein (Local Studio), Park Station/Hillbrow (ARUP and UrbanWorks) and JeppesTown (Bjala). Each partner supplied unique base information and the students were given several other public sources of inner-city information to start.

The strategy for this year was to get the students to work in groups on each site to process the supplied information and other sources of data they could find about their site through the proposed projected mapping tool. Described below on the Studio Pedagogy Diagram.

Studio Pedagogy Diagram

This tool would consist of a simply built model, that would have information projected onto it from a basic projector. This system would allow for the spatial exploration of the information easier and provide a better teaching system for a context that they cannot visit.  The students would use the same tool to propose their interventions and share with the local partners back in South Africa (who have the same model built in their contexts).

The brief proposed to create a system of analysis, feedback, proposition and hand over that the tool would facilitate. On top of the input from Sheffield the students were supported  by visiting professors and experts from the continent and Johannesburg specifically.

Simon Mason and Omar Nagati sharing their work with the students.

The challenge was eagerly met by the students who really embraced the process and began building the tool system through their research process and the brief’s requirements.

The models proved to be a great learning and teaching tool, withe each group grappling with valuable group dynamic experience and spatial literacy in the process.

The 3 site: Braamfontein, JeppesTown and Park Station
The tool allows for a multiples styles and forms of visual projection from mapping, to info-graphics or simply adding context to a site.
The tool spatialises the process and give the students an interactive spatial landscape to unpack their findings.
It give the ability for a narrative of space to be given either subjectively or objectively.
Land Use Mapping
Story Telling
Emotional Mapping
Site location and Architectural scale detail.
The tool was supplemented by other projectors and many students used diagrams to explain the more intangible aspects of their designs and research.
Some students used video footage made from Google street view to augment their research.

The tool was a great success as a teaching and learning tool for students of Urban Design. It allowed for the students from a completely foreign context an upper hand in learning together about another city, but also the ability to share that learning with those of the city by simply sharing the raw visual data files.

This tool will be taken back to South Africa as part of an ongoing project to build spatial literacy in South African cities for officials, practitioners and city users.

ASF-UK Challenging Practice in South Africa

ASF Architecture Sans Frontieres International (ASF-Int)  has developed the pedagogical system of Challenging Practice as a  critical teaching material and workshops that takes participants through an immersive and action-learning based workshop experience. This course aims to teach participants the nature of people-led development practices that engage with complex multiple stakeholder contexts.


United Kingdom (ASF-UK) has been developing the teaching arm of this module and run several Challenging Practice workshops, that employ the learnings and case studies of their Change by Design workshops as means to take participants through an action-based learning experience.




In 2016 the Graduate School of Architecture hosted the first South African Challenging Practice workshop within their Alternative Practice teaching module.

Blanca Calvo and Lene Le Roux of Urbanists for Equity assisted in the development and running of the course while I facilitated the workshops with the UJ teaching curriculum.

The workshop was a great success with most students completing the requirements to attain a certificate from ASF-UK that will allow them to proceed through the 3 part process of the ASF-UK Challenging Practice course.

See the summary of the student’s work here:

ASF Challenging Practice – Summaries