The Critical Assessment of Social Housing in South Africa in Terms of Its Appropriateness.

Topics: Urban design, Affordable housing, Public housing Pages: 20 (6146 words) Published: April 5, 2013

The critical assessment of social housing in South Africa in terms of its appropriateness. The appropriateness of the housing to meet the needs of the intended user; such as future adaptability or growth, along with flexibility, in addition to the environment produced by the housing.

RDP House (Architecture South Africa,March/April 2009; pg 102)

TANYA VILJOEN 15/01/2013


The issue this research proposal will deal with is the critical appraisal of social housing in South Africa in terms of its ability to provide for flexibility; “a quality by which to measure the capacity of physical settings to be easily modified, which could undergo a series of incremental transformations in order to ensure good fit through time.Harbraken”- (Hamdi;1995) while at the same time producing successful environments.


As a result of rapid urbanization in South Africa, a vast number of people are moving to the cities. This has resulted in a gross under-supply of houses. In accordance with the Bill of Rights of South Africa – “everyone has the right to have access to adequate housing” – the responsibility of providing everyone with a house lies, therefore, with the state 1 (Constitution of the Republic of South Africa of 1996, Chapter 2) The pressure, caused by the backlog of housing provision and the speed with which the houses then get built, leaves little to no room for responsive design; design which adequately serves the intended user and creates quality environments. In order for the housing to be responsive it has to accommodate the needs of the user. These needs my differ depending on the user, and as a result a certain amount of flexibility within the design is needed. A second, yet inseparable issue that has to be addressed when creating housing, is the environment the housing produces; as it directly influences the quality of life of the inhabitant. In order to provide for the above mentioned issues it is important to define what the terms represent: Flexibility can be defined in two parts; the first being the flexibility of the physical setting to adapt to the needs of the user. Hamdi directs this at the decisions regarding dwelling size and types, and the ease with which these can adapt over time to suite the uncertainty the users find themselves in. (Hamdi; 1995) The second part would be the flexibility available to the users in terms of financing, planning, building and maintaining buildings. Turner defines this as; “A quality by which to measure the opportunities available to people to locally self-manage programs.” (Turner; 1972) Both the first and second part regarding flexibility contrast greatly, however, they are equally important and inseparable. The term environment refers to the space between the built fabric (public space). Buildings produce residual space and, unless this space is well designed it becomes unusable and merely occupied by the buildings standing within it. “ if you wish casual opportunities for meeting your neighbours, and for profiting by chance contacts with acquaintances and colleagues, a stroll at two miles an hour in a concentrated area, will alone meet your need.” (Mumford; 1964)

1. Dewar, D; The potential role of housing policy as a broader development instrument in SA; Architecture South Africa; March/April 2009; Picasso Headline

Public space is where community life happens. It is where ideas are exchanged and where you find chance encounters and social interaction. These interactions and exchanges of ideas enhances the living index of the community and in turn the social equity and quality of life of the inhabitants. It is thus prevalent that the built environment has a determining influence on human behavior and, as a result, is the medium for and the outcome of social process and change. Therefore, “...It is being increasingly recognized internationally that significant improvements to the...

Bibliography: This relates to the research on flexibility; as it discusses how inappropriate the houses are in terms of space and flexibility for its user. • Low, I., 2003. Space and Transformation, in Digest of South African Architecture 2003.
• Low, I. 2005. Elemental Chile: Alejandro Aravena and The SA Experience, in Architecture
South Africa January/February 2011, Picasso Headline Cape Town.
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