Appropriate Architecture for Africa [Aᵌ]

Department of Architecture and Industrial Design, Tshwane University of Technology (TUT)

The Appropriate Architecture for Africa [Aᵌ] Niche Area at the TUT Department of Architecture and Industrial Design is managed by the Architecture Research and Innovation Committee (A_DRIC). We organised its first mini-conference on the 30th January 2019. The abstracts can be found here:

On the 17th February 2020, we hosted the second mini-conference. The work of the Appropriate Architecture for Africa [Aᵌ] Niche Area aims to reinforce the concept of architecture as a social act, manifested in built form and space, responding to social agreements and serving the needs of all segments of society. [Aᵌ] believes that good urban environments and cities benefit both the rich and the poor, and spatial, technical, economic, procurement and management systems must, therefore, aim towards achieving equity, choice and access to opportunity. Our teaching and research programmes have both discipline-specific skills and knowledge while also encouraging students to explore beyond strict disciplinary boundaries and interact with, and be inspired by, content from other disciplines.

This event aims to introduce our post-graduate students to our diverse research interests and networks.

Calayde Davey, REGEN 50

Critical Thinking for Spatial Design Professions; Why this? Why now – why you?

We can change the future state of our African built-environments by building the capacity in individuals to become relevant critical thinkers and doers. We need critical thinking leaders who can bring others along with them in taking the innovative steps for a different future.

What we lack is not the design talent, but the ability for our industry to lead with critical value-generating actions. We need people with social-creative skills and behaviours that generate relevant solutions to real concerns. We need people who can expose the undiscovered value within each project, develop the path forward, take action quickly, and lead others toward the new possibilities.

This talk is part of an ongoing body of work relating to developing practical critical thinking skills and leadership for spatial design professionals. This material is focused on new skills that could help us navigate ourselves and others toward continuous improvement and meaningful change.

The purpose is to develop human potential through design – to become relevantly critical design thinkers and actionable leaders for the projects and teams we engage with.

We hope to show you how you can learn to take the critical actions necessary that will provide new meaning and continuous improvement to your work practices, and move you from critical thinker to critical doer.

Pieter Greyvensteyn, TUT

Palaces for the people: democratization of urban space. Precedents from Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro

The title is derived from Beaumont’s (2019:19) comment about the newly renovated  inner-city SESC 24 de Maio, Sao Paolo, Brazil, by Paulo Mendes da Rocha  and MMBB: “This palace for the people, like any self-respecting luxury tower, is crowned with a glittering 25m pool, but rather than for millionaires, this rooftop pool is for the people.” Also called a modern-day social condenser (Beaumont, E. 2019:16), this Social Service of Commerce (SESC) is a former shopping mall converted into a cultural and sports centre open to the general public at no cost. Columns inserted into the original atrium space support the rooftop pool mentioned above. This project and others will be presented as good examples of architectural interventions in the inner city that can improve and enrich the life of all citizens.

[Beaumont, E. Social climber. In: The Architectural Review. No. 1465. Brazil. October 2019. [pp 16-25]]

Amira Osman, TUT

What does transformation look like? 

The SARChI: DST/NRF/SACN Research Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive Change in the Built Environment) is now hosted at the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) in Pretoria with a key partner with a key partner being the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in the Built Environment (CARINBE), University of Johannesburg. Both institutions are located at the heart of their respective cities. This advantageous in addressing a spatial transformation agenda. The unique locations offer a microcosm of the larger context and become laboratories where direct engagement with the dynamics that make up the DNA of the two cities will play out.

The Chair will focus efforts at strategic high-level decision-making to project-level interventions and their impact on spatial transformation, having an impact with regards to transformation in the Built Environment (BE)(in its totality and in its diverse scales):

  • how power and control manifest in the BE – this impact will be demonstrated in a tangible manner as far as possible.
  • how transformation is reflected in morphology, infrastructure, networks, services, spatial planning, design, technology, transport, resource efficiency and urban management and BE interventions
  • the actors and decision-makers that negotiate and act on different levels
  • how these relate to social, cultural, financial and management factors

The Chair has a broad view of transformation, believing that every aspect of it is interconnected. While the creation of a more equitable society, reflecting different races, genders and socio-economic groups is important, it is also important to acknowledge transformation of thinking and practice, education (content and methods) and professional regulation. A unique and particular lens of viewing and conceptualising change in the built environment. The work of the Chair is firmly focused on achieving livable and lovable cities.

Philip Lourens & Gordon Jubber, BOOGERTMAN + PARTNERS

Appropriate Commercial Architecture for Africa 

Defining and designing appropriate commercial architecture for Africa is an intricate and reiterative process. The focus of these building projects are to attain the appropriate balance. Not only the balance between aesthetic and functionality, but between what is locally available in both materiality and skillset. In accommodating local culture and construction methods as part of skills development, an opportunity is created for the commercial development to reflect a unique African aesthetic, and celebrate an instilled sense of local identity.

This dynamic approach towards the building process is integrated from project inception to execution and aims to achieve contextually responsible and innovative design. We encourage a collaborative process in which the client brief and dialogue is realised by a creative vision, shaped by geographic location and environmental characteristics.

The final product is moulded by economic and social conditions and further refined through technical sustainable advances, resulting in a holistic project solution that supports the sustainable transformation of the built environment. The project team’s commitment to create environments that are low energy consuming, efficient and flexible, speaks to the firm’s goal of striving towards design for an optimally healthy lifestyle.

Boogertman + Partners Architects engage in projects throughout Africa, continually embracing social, economic, and functional challenges through Human Centered Design – Design that is created by people, for people.

cused on achieving livable and lovable cities.

Stephen Steyn, TUT

Theory: Some Perspectives and a Perspective

The word ‘theory’ is derived from the Greek theōria which refers to ‘things looked at’ and the act of looking or viewing. The dual character of the term is perhaps best understood through the idea of the theatre which shares that root with theory. A theatre is both the stage — something looked at — and the construction of a number of points of view from which to look. In the architectural treatise, it is tempting to treat theory as a decorative addition, a chapter or section in a book perhaps, or a collection of references (influential historical points of view) which add gravitas to one’s argument. While it certainly also is that, it is important to remember that, as architects, we are not only constructing things to look at, but also ways of looking, points of view. The treatise as a whole is also a perspective. And, since there is no politically neutral point of view, we need to interrogate the mechanisms, metaphors and assumptions with which our own points of view are being constructed. The complexity of this exercise means that we are always living dangerously when dabbling in theory. It is never possible to get a truly objective point of view, but through rigorous inquiry, it is possible to posit a workable, effective,  and ethical point of view which can then be exposed to critique and assessment by a jury of others who have each in turn produced a carefully constructed point of view of their own. Through a brief unpacking of some of my own current and shelved projects I will demonstrate some of the procedures involved in the continuing construction of my point of view.

Jako Nice, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

The corona condition. architecture & health: from intra to interdisciplinary

Eighty five percent of our time is spent indoors, in addition people are the main contributor of bacteria in indoor environments, with majority sourced human bacteria being pathogenic.  The notion of buildings influencing the health and wellbeing of their occupants is well established and of notable public health importance. Healthcare acquired infection (HAI) have strong correlation to human social interaction in indoor environments. The understanding of how people use and program space is paramount to the composition of a buildings microbiome, and potential health related conditions caused by building systems and design.

In an epoch of increased urbanization and global interconnectivity, the character of the indoor environments are becoming increasingly more critical. The supposition goes: All buildings are well designed – until we face a problem, then they are not. All buildings are resolved tectonics – until we face a problem and again, then they are not. The author terms this the Corona condition, derived from the recent 2019-nCOV Chinese and global pandemic, where the design and appropriateness of healthcare facilities and public civic building space are brought into question.

Architecture for too long has followed an intra ‘self’ disciplinary approach. The increased complexity of urban environments and health, drive interdisciplinary research collaboration towards integrated knowledge solutions. A building is not an isolated artifact; in fact, they form part of a larger system, an urban ecosystem and micro building system. The microbiology of the built environment (MoBE) engages in this building ecology perspective.

Healthy buildings consider both the external and the indoor environment to support the health and wellbeing of the occupant and user.  A Healthy building is not confined, to just healthcare infrastructure, all building design and planning should consider both physiological and mental health outcomes, in building environments. Architecture is about people and architecture is for people.


Democratising the Building Industry; the role of a circular economy in a new approach to making.

A unique approach to building materials, construction and detailing is presented; this approach is related to our context and socioeconomic conditions with a focus on “making”, a view to ease of implementation, installation, assembly and disassembly; in this process, structures with high capacity are created. The design of the Future Africa campus at the University of Pretoria has been an integrative process learning from the collective knowledge and experience of manifold contributors, as collated by the Future Africa Management Team and articulated by Earth World team of architectural experts: “The architecture of the campus should play an active role in shaping minds, as much as it does in shaping environments. The brief required for a number of programs to be accommodated on the campus, including a dining hall, a conference center, research commons and 300 living units, with varying scales, ranging from single bedrooms, to family units.

It is explained that the concept is based on ‘AFRI-TECH’, combining high-level design processes with local resources and skills. Existing design and construction processes, common in practice in the region, were challenged. With regards to the housing component, in order to minimize time on site, as well as to rethink how traditional materials are employed, the 300 housing units are prefabricated from precast concrete and assembled on-site, with services and fittings having already been installed. Each living unit is constructed from a series of precast concrete modules, allowing for variations in composition and size. This approach improves quality control and challenges traditional uses for precast concrete as a construction material.

The project architects challenge the traditional construction process changes which sees many involved: “from sourcing, to manufacturing, to retail, eventually reaching site through contractors. Shortening this value chain would drastically reduce cost and time; dealing directly with manufacturers also allows for greater understanding of construction materials and improving quality control.” The architects therefore aimed to establish inter-disciplinary partnerships with designers and manufacturers. As one example, flat-pack, structural timber portal frames were developed to carry the communal facilities in the development. The resultant segments were easily transported in small truck, could be handled by one or two people and assembled in a few hours. The whole process intended to reducing the need for water, shuttering and heavy machinery. (ibid)

The development sits on the edge of site, hugging the hill behind it, thus allowing for minimum disruption of the features of the site and capturing the views, and sun light, from the north. Every few meters, external, shaded staircases are introduced with distinct steel and concrete details. The structural and spatial elements are visible and also distinct. The non-structural elements such as the wooden purlins and polycarbonate roof sheeting are used to create protection to the walkways, with concrete slabs over the stairs. (ibid)

The facades have fixed and flexible elements determined by the concrete, steel and glass sections. The steel frames allow for projecting “boxes” which house some of the communal areas which are grouped rather than distributed throughout the building to allow for maximum engagement and interaction. These glass boxes have concrete floors and project from the main facades in the internal courtyards. The building is layered horizontally, with a concrete wall separating the residential spaces from the walkways.

The use of materials and the detailing is unique in that the different materials and components are clearly distinct from each other, yet work together to create a harmonious whole. The residential sections of the project are only now starting to be inhabited and they are starting to personalize their spaces. The furniture systems are designed for maximum flexibility and the spatial arrangement is intended to encourage impromptu gatherings, meetings and collective cooking and eating in indoor and outdoor spaces on several levels and intervals. These communal spaces are dispersed throughout the building.

The project differentiates between long and short term elements and this is made evident in the architecture. There is a level of disentanglement achieved and the project has allowed for the involvement of different people, with different skills, to be involved at a later stage in the construction process – thus not all decisions were made from the outset and it became a process that emerged and involved others. To be able to achieve this, the building was designed with a view to achieving maximum adaptability with minimum disruptions. While the final “product” has a very distinct architectural character; there was a strong focus on “process” and that this was not an “object-driven” process.