iShack – New Design for Better Housing in Urban Slums

No, this isn’t the latest Apple product. The iShack is a new design for better housing for South Africans living in urban slums, co-created by slum residents and masters students from a local university. It’s an attempt to address one of the big challenges of life in sub-Saharan Africa, where 62 percent of city residents live in informal settlements.

In some ways, the features of the newly-improved shack seem simple, not revolutionary; the homes have solar panels to charge a few lights and a cell phone, walls insulated with hay and clay, and slanted roofs that can collect rainwater. But the designers argue that these simple changes are exactly the right place to start.

The project is supported by government, the HOPE project, Stellenbosch University, the Sustainability Institute at Lynedoch, and the Gates Foundation.

Images by Desmond Thompson and Anna Lusty courtesy of the Hope project.

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South Africa’s National Building Regulations

The Site That Tells You All About Building Regulations
South Africa’s National Building Regulations were originally produced as a set of functional guidelines for anybody building any type of structure. They were not intended to be prescriptive in terms of what people should build, but they do stipulate important “dos” and “don’ts” – many of which are in fact mandatory. So if you are planning to build, this is a document you should familiarise yourself with.

If you want to know more about these important regulations, have a look at the scroll-down menu under National Building Regulations (SA). While these topics are those found in the regulations, we have not duplicated the regulations. Instead we have discussed the issues the regulations cover in easy to understand pages.

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African Slum Journal

African Slum Journal empoweres young africans to tell their own stories straight from the slums of Nairobi and Kenia

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Norman White – But I would prefer that it sneaks in through some back door


Norman White at work

The Normill is an old watermill in Durham (Ontario, Canada), a village 80 miles Northwest of Toronto. The big stone building next to a stunningly beautiful pond, was bought years ago by artist Norman T White (San Antonio, Texas, 1938)

The mill smells like old flour, animal carcasses and bat shit and harbours the soul of Norman White. His personal history is visible in the old photos of the Dutch fisherman relatives of his mother. The building is littered with the material his work is made of: machine parts and a bunch of old computers. The raw architecture of the construction seems hardly altered in the years White lived in it. He sleeps over the gas stove in the kitchen in a small attic. The reason why he lodges here lies in the cold winters, when snow piles up and the temperature drops below zero. The building is spacious: it has a clean working spot; a big storage space, a cellar, actually a steel workshop; a room full of closets and drawers stacked with electronics; enough room for a large bat colony that lives in the cracks in the impressive walls.
You can walk around for hours, investigate the archives, the boxes with machine parts and printed circuit boards, wired art pieces in themselves. In the corner of the cellar leans a big raft made of plastic bottles against the wall.

Norman White, in his seventies, looks young: more a boy then a man. His friends say that his looks never changed, he is the same as thirty years ago. White is a myth in and outside of Canada. He is one of the godfathers of electronic-, machine- and robotic art and taught for more then twenty five years at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. His offspring is well known in the electronic art world, Doug Back, Peter Flemming, Jeff Man, Graham Smith and David Rokeby are his former students. And they all visit his annual parties at the Normill, to celebrate their friendship with fires, swimming, music and art. Regularly artists from all over the world join and camp at the mill. White and his friends organised robot fights, machine wrestling: ‘Rawbotics & Sumo robots’ long before it became fashionable. Read more

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Reusing Urban Spaces and Places

By Rashiq Fataar. – March, 4, 2013.

The #builtheritage chat, which focuses on heritage and preservation issues, is celebrating its two-year anniversary in March. The chat started with an idea, some twitter conversation and finally e-mails between the National Trust for Historic Preservation in the USA, and myself, a heritage consultant in Ontario, Canada.

The spirit of the chat has always been communication and collaboration. We’ve had several chats focused on partner’s programs, such as one with Habitat for Humanity on their rehabilitation projects. So to celebrate our second anniversary, we’re partnering with our twitter chat neighbour – #citytalk, which focuses on broad urban issues and sustainability. Since this is a special chat both because of our anniversary and our amazing partner, we’ve decided to revisit our 1st topic – adaptive reuse.

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Surili Sheth – Understanding Slum Dwellers: Part 1 – “Slum Dweller” March, 2013 – I use the term “slum dweller” as a descriptive phrase – and I choose to use it because it is how people living in slums refer to themselves, it describes the place they live (which is the subject of this post), and it acknowledges the existence of the type of informal settlement that a billion people in the world live in today – slums.

Slum policy
In developing an understanding of slum development policy, institutions have often failed to take services, environment, and community, and how these are linked to the physical structures and productivity of the people living in the slum, into consideration.

There are three major, interconnected aspects to slums that policymakers are generally concerned about:
1)     The unused or underutilized economic worth – market/productive capacity – of the people living in the slum.
2)     What part the slum (both the physical infrastructure and the people within it) plays in the larger context of the city, state, or country.
3)     The deprivations and poverty the people living in a slum face.

Often, the connections between these three aspects go unrecognized and they are treated as separate issues in policies that attempt to address the informal settlements. I argue that a true inclusive development policymaker must possess an adequate understanding of all three, using India as an example.

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