Despite 20 years of government promises to improve the quality of housing following the end of apartheid, for many in South Africa's townships there has been little noticeable change. This is not to say that the South African government has not been working to meet these goals; however, the scale of the problem is so large, and with population growth and migration, the challenge is only getting greater.
The first step to creating a more realistic prototype for rapidly improving South African housing was to re-think the material being used, brick, which is far more expensive than the timber frame and metal sheets that are commonly used for the informal housing in the townships: "quite frequently products going to low income areas of the world tend to be designed in a way the West thinks something for poor people should look."
Deciding to utilize these materials for a cheap and quick build meant the improvements to the quality of life would come primarily from the use of vertical space. In the townships, almost all houses are single story. By raising the ground floor, the damage caused by frequent flooding can be averted. By adding a second story, family homes can be enlarged, and at the same time their footprint can be shrunk, freeing up more exterior space.
The next step is an analysis of each block and neighborhood, working to temper the informality of the housing layout. By using the newly leveraged extra space, and implementing a more rational street layout, safety within neighborhoods can be improved, access can be provided for emergency vehicles, and the space between homes can take on a more functional role within the community.
By working on an real site in Khayelitsha with local resident Phumezo Tsibanto in the design and prototype phase, these designs are also embedded more in the real world. The inclusion of a local housing organization also enables the design to spread, rather than remaining a one-off or even just a hypothetical project.