Paper presented at the XXXIII IAHS World Congress on Housing, 27-30 September 2005,"Transforming Housing Environments through Design", University of Pretoria.
As the physical manifestation of a set of power relations, space represents perhaps, the greatest legacy of the apartheid state. The Afrikaner nationalist government's policy of 'setting apart' contributed in constructing a built environment that was characterised by both segregation and a concomitant absence of diversity. State agencies, such as the [NBRI] National Building Research Institute, produced impoverished dwelling environments which conflicted with the culture and practices of local/black people. Originating in a desire for justice and democracy, the 9th statement of the Freedom Charter, 'there shall be housing, security and comfort'; aspires toward a more equitable society in which difference comfortably co-exists. Despite the claims embedded in various policy driven initiatives of the post apartheid African National Congress government, the current delivery of housing in South Africa remains a quantitative and reductive endeavour. The approach privileges a policy driven, economic-quantitative housing model and realises impoverished living environments for poor communities. Currently, contemporary society is faced with multiple contradictions. Whereas globalisation elevates a singular purpose of economic utility, [re]claiming local practice may afford a basis for both a redress of past injustice and the reconstructing of civil society. As the imperative to deliver vast numbers of houses grows by the day, the interpretation of traditional values becomes increasingly threatened. Contemporary projects that mediate these pervasive extremes have enabled the design of hybrid housing solutions which simultaneously attend to the contingencies of local dwelling practice and the strictures of economic necessity. This paper will examine the enabling capacity of [architectural] design in attending to the conflicting rationalities of economic utilitarianism and the social practice[s] of dwelling. The research will critically examine selected ‘non-mainstream’ housing interventions where design has significantly contributed toward the production of socio-economic opportunity. Through an analysis of spatial configuration, it is intended to contribute knowledge to current debate on the role of design and experimentation, and broaden government’s agenda of constructing HOMES; 'human settlement' as opposed to HOUSES through delivery.
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