In Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, an estimated 9464 households (as surveyed by the Solid Waste Department of the City of Cape Town in May 2011) make use of shared toilets and taps – this means that the service ratio in the settlement is 61.1 households per toilet and a staggering 394.3 households per tap. As part of a continuing effort to engage with this issue, the University of Cape Town’s second year Architecture students, together with a few key staff members and members of the local community, have been designing and building water platforms in Imizamo Yethu (or IY as it is known to local residents). The platforms are a way of providing additional services, more dignified places for water collection and washing, social gathering spaces, and cleaner areas for children to play.
Teaching and learning
The project has been stitched into both the second year Design and Theory course and the second year Technology course, so students develop designs for the platform in the Design and Theory course, before the project moves into the Technology course where they design and manufacture physical prototypes of components. Approximately a third of the class then volunteers to physically construct the platform on site during an intensive six to ten days in the June vacation. The progression of a project through different courses culminating in an actual built artefact offers a wide range of learning experiences for students, and eventually for community members. Community members are involved during the planning phases and unemployed community members are then nominated by the community to assist during construction: There is an exchange of knowledge where students teach community members new skills, while the community members in turn teach the students artisanal skills and demonstrate the realities of living in informal settlements to them.
The project has been running since 2010 with one platform having been built over two to three weeks each year until 2016. The project has included various attempts (with varying degrees of success and failure) at creating social and economic infrastructures to provide more comprehensive benefits to the community besides the platforms’ physical manifestation.
One of the sub-themes of the platforms is (temporary) job creation and skill building. By employing two to seven locally nominated unemployed residents per platform, and by collaborating with a number of NGOs or groups who are active locally, a community network or social infrastructure is being established that helps to facilitate future projects in the area.
A second sub-theme of the platforms is pre-manufacture and the use of recycled content. This includes the use of glass bottles, recycled timber and formwork, recycled steel and recycled plastic bottle caps amongst others. The use of recycled bottle caps in 2016 contributed to the funding of operations for children with cleft palates via the project partner Operation Smile.
After a devastating fire in Imizamo Yethu in 2017 during which almost half of the informal settlement burnt down, the platforms were some of the only portions of the built fabric that remained. They were used for temporary storage and service points in the aftermath of the fire, and some have now been incorporated into re-erected houses. The water platforms are currently being reimagined to provide a network of facilities that could potentially be used to assist fire fighters during emergencies.
PROJECT NAME: The Imizamo Yethu water platforms
LOCATION: Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, South Africa
PROJECT LEADER: Michael Louw (University of Cape Town)
COLLABORATORS (STAFF, UNIVERSITY OF CAPE TOWN): John Coetzee, Shafiek Matthews, Kevin Fellingham, Heinrich Kammeyer, Nic Coetzer and Luis Mira
COLLABORATORS (STUDENTS): Second-year BAS student volunteers, 2012-2016
COMPLETION DATES: 2012 – 2016
COMMUNITY LIAISON: Kenny Tokwe
PROJECT PARTNERS: The Lalela Project, Trashback, FairCape and Operation Smile
SURVEYING: Department of Geomatics, University of Cape Town
STRUCTURAL ENGINEERING: Henry Fagan and Partners, Arcus Gibb
SPONSORS: Bluescope Steel, Duram Paints, Glasstile, Greenway, Lafarge, PERI, PPC, Pudlo, Quetzal, Tensile Cables, the University of Cape Town, the Vine Charitable Trust and Youngman Roofing.
DRAWINGS AND PHOTOS: Michael Louw
Duncan, P. (Ed.) (2015). World Design Capital, Cape Town 2014: The Story of an African City. Cape Town: Cape Town Design NPC, pp. 213.
Louw, M.P. (2016). Design-Building Infrastructures: The Imizamo Yethu Water Platforms. Paper presented at the Sustainable Futures Conference at the United Nations Headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. Conference Proceedings e-book: ISBN 978-0-620-72290-2.
Louw, M.P. (2014). Imizamo Yethu Water Platform, 2014, in Digest of South African Architecture, 2014, Volume 19.
Louw, M.P. (2013). Water Platform 2013 Mandela Square, in Digest of South African Architecture, 2013, Volume 18.
Louw, M.P. (2012). Work, Waste and Want: The Imizamo Yethu Platforms, in Architecture SA, Issue 59, Jan/Feb 2013.
Included on the official programme for World Design Capital 2014 (#WDC316) and exhibited at Cape Town City Hall as part of the Open Design Festival 2014.