Informal settlements are more than just a collection of corrugated iron units. They are not a building type but an urban phenomenon that is prevalent in South Africa due to reasons such as housing backlog (Huchzermeyer, 2010:132) and the need for livelihood (Huchzermeyer, 2011:33). It offers choice, it gives people what they want and it is affordable (Mills, 2012:1). “Informalization is a process where the poor evade rules to produce outcomes that they need, but that are otherwise too controlled for them to reach” (Cross, 2005:3). Urbanisation in South Africa is increasing every day (Mills, 2012:1) and the poor in shacks continue to deliver housing to themselves using informal mechanisms (Cross, 2005:2). There is a need to recognise and appreciate the economic, social and environmental benefits that informal settlements can bring to the urbanisation process (Mills 2012, pp1). Informal housing exists due to the gap in the market where the poor are unable to afford the available kind of housing (Cross, 2005:3). One must understand that formalising the informal does not always have to be through eradication of existing slums according to MDG seven Target 11 (Huchzermeyer, 2011:16) and it can also take place as an in situ upgrading (Huchzermeyer, 2011:30). It can sometimes be an “invisible” form of development of the community which leads to a self-sustaining future upgrade such as project that Nabeel Hamdi pioneered namely ‘the Buffalo Project’ (Hamdi, 2010:106). Sometimes the existing abandoned structures such as a community hall can be reactivated, resulting in an improvement of an area in terms of addressing the needs of the community for a market space (Hamdi, 2010:109) or changing the appearance of an informal settlement resulting in a change in people’s perceptions of the area (Feireiss, 2011:114). In this way the “small change” can grow over time and result in the development of an entire settlement by its own residents. This dissertation explores the importance of the architectural facilitator as the “missing” profession amongst other professionals who are involved with upgrading projects such as architects, engineers, NGOs, government entities, private stakeholders and many more (Hamdi, 2010:96). The architectural facilitator will be able to accommodate the gaps that have been challenging the Upgrade of the informal settlements in South Africa by creating an understanding between the issues that exist in an informal settlement, prioritising the needs and selecting interventions that address the most pressing needs in an informal settlement. The aim is to create a universal understanding of how one can approach the issue of upgrading informal settlements in order to derive a strategic framework that will lead to a long-term sustainable development. A revised toolkit is introduced to guide the decision-makers such as the Architects, government entities or anyone with an understanding of Architecture, to be able to organise their findings in a prioritised manner and implement interventions according to what the priority needs in the context are. The important thing to highlight in this paper is the theoretical importance of livelihoods to the understanding of poverty in the urban context and the implication of these theories in practice (Hamdi, 2010:185). Therefore, designing an upgrade plan and intervention which will be a long-term project, accepted by the community and accommodating the community’s need for livelihood. Topics such as ownership through tenure security and identifying existing nodes of energy are the main focus of this thesis document.
Dissertation (MSc (Applied Science) )--University of Pretoria, 2013.