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The meanings of empowerment? Alternative architectural education and the launch of "Open Architecture" in Cape Town

Cape Town, 2 February 2015 — Due to the lasting socio-spatial consequences of apartheid, the spatial disciplines hold a particular importance in the post-apartheid context of societal transformation. However, in the field of architecture today the bulk of persons previously disadvantaged by the apartheid system are still registered at only draughtsperson or technologist levels and not as fully qualified professionals, and thus are constrained in their ability to better engage their contexts and empower their communities. Now a new and alternative mode of education known as "Open Architecture" utilizes part-time, practice-based, and online learning to respond much more directly to these challenges. See more.

Fishing for jobs, not houses: Fish farming in a shipping container in Cape Town

Cape Town, 22 January 2015 — Converted shipping containers have become increasingly synonymous with experimental architecture. Now a new concept has developed a prototype for a fish farm in a 12m-long shipping container. Rather than building houses at a distance from economic opportunities and livelihood options, the typical model of state-subsidised housing in South Africa, the Fish Farm model looks to do the reverse, by focusing on job and livelihood options and inserting these into existing contexts. See more.

Microfinance and architecture for the poor?

Cape Town, 11 December 2014 — Set against the controversies of the global microfinance industry, the South African context of high household debt, rising cost of living, and high unemployment suggests that South Africans need better ways to build and maximize savings more than they need a global microfinance model leading them to incur further debt. As microfinance in South Africa looks set to continue its growth, it must consider how it might grow differently, with success defined not by high loan repayment rates but by whether loans actually transform lives. See more.

Informalizing the formal: The forays and the futures of street trading in Cape Town's CBD

Cape Town, 10 November 2014 — South Africa's various neo-liberal centered urban regeneration models to attract formal business back into the CBDs have had mixed results for informal trading practices. In Cape Town CBD their numbers and permitted places of trade are highly restricted. Recent new policy directions, however, suggest a more "progressive" approach, but this needs to be supported by political will and implemented into urban space with imagination to bring about significant change. See more.

Transport and the post-colonial city: Cape Town's new Integrated Transport Plan for 2032

Cape Town, 23 October 2014 — Cape Town is the latest of close to 200 cities worldwide to adopt the BRT urban transport model, to allow the mobility needed for a diverse economy to thrive. But unlike BRT pioneers in South America, South Africa's fast-growing cities have amongst the lowest average population densities in the world and, in Cape Town especially, there is also deep-rooted social and spatial injustice written in the city structure. Is there a wider role for "an efficient, world-class public transportation system" in the post-colonial, post-apartheid city? See more.

Urban Challenges for Sexual and Gender Minority Refugees

Media coverage of conflicts and forced migration has created a stereotypical depiction of a "refugee" – a grief-stricken woman, holding a sickly child next to a tent. While we are all familiar with this image, it does not characterize most refugees. Read more.

Sustainability or transformation? City futures in Cape Town and the global South

Cape Town, 22 September 2014 — Cape Town, like other cities in South Africa and globally, has begun speaking a discourse around 'sustainability'. The renewable energy industry in South Africa is already one of the fastest-growing in the world, but increasingly a balance will need to be struck between returns for the private sector investment required and the needs of the broader society. If left unchecked, 'green' ventures may well turn into a new kind of hegemony, justifying further investment in the wealthiest areas at the expense of the poorest. See more.

Gated and ungated communities in the World Design Capital

Cape Town, 18 August 2014 — Notwithstanding the global similarities among gated settlements, there are also many nuanced local realities. For affluent households, gated communities may result from fear of crime, privatization or exclusivism; but within segregated areas affected by poverty there is conversely also the desire to open up to wider linkages. Gated and ‘ungated’ communities reveal that notions of safety, sustainment of life, and inclusiveness can translate very differently in different contexts. See more.

Housing the (radical) everyday

Cape Town, 22 July 2014 — Unlike the fall of regimes in many other parts of the world, with the fall of apartheid South Africans chose a very specific and unusual path to reconciliation, "that South Africa belongs to all who live in it, united." But to what extent has post-apartheid housing facilitated this inclusive vision? See more.

The big and the small: Designing for disaster and dwelling in neighborhoods of change

For newly arrived migrants and the unemployed in cities like Cape Town, wood and tin shacks built on flood plains and wetland or river fringes are often the only opportunities for land and affordable accommodation in urban areas. In 2000 it was estimated that most of the approximately 100,000 people in South Africa living below flood levels along rivers and streams live in informal settlements. A clear relationship therefore exists between unequal processes of urbanization and disasters like flooding, exacerbated by the frequent and devastating informal settlement fires ("shack fires"). There are various approaches, each with their own constraints and shortcomings, which have been undertaken to address these predictable cycles of misery. Read more or discuss.