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Informal settlements serve as a constant and graphic reminder of the current inequalities within our nation (pic. 1).

It is estimated that at least 10% of our total population (44 million people) are currently living in urban informal settlements and approximately 23% of South African households in major cities are estimated to be without adequate (or any) shelter (A New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa 2012). The income of households in informal settlements are low and irregular and the residents of these settlements suffer PICTURE 1 INFORMAL SETTLEMENT from multiple disadvantages including poor access to basic sanitation and water supply, inadequate public services, access to health care, education and sociopolitical decision making is limited and the protection of public security is seldom guaranteed by public authorities (A New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa 2012). Despite government efforts and progressive policies implemented (such as Breaking New Ground), little or no progress has been made in the improvements of quality of life to this significant portion of our population (A New Response to Informal Settlements 2012). Goals for national (and international) development are currently not being sufficiently and adequately realised and the ongoing empty political promises of housing are only exacerbating the situation. The current wealth of knowledge on housing has not influenced actual implementation and housing environments remain untransformed. Current housing landscapes in South Africa (pic.2) have evolved into sterile, regimented and inefficient settlement patterns (Osman. Hindes 2005, p 61). The massive machine of the state continues to dominate housing delivery, in the process limiting interventions by other potential role players. Due to this, designers have distanced themselves.

PICTURE 2 RGP HOUSING

The current housing delivery policies in South Africa sets a very low standard for low cost housing and professional involvement is urgently required (Osman. Hindes 2005, p 63). Quinta Monroy Project in Iquique by the Chilean design group Elemental demonstrates how professionals (especially architects) involvement in housing design could generate a more responsive and socially conscious design (pic.3). This approach is urgently required in the South African housing context. The project aim was to accommodate everyone who was living in the area initially, but improve their living conditions with a limited budget. The approach was to achieve the required high density of 100 families by to combine the subsidies and construct a mainly single building being less expensive than a series of individual units (Elemental Iquique 2012). The decision was linked to the implantation of the residents in the district with the obvious advantages for their future employment and social well-being (Elemental Iquique 2012).
PICTURE 3 EXTERIOR VIEW

PICTURE 4 INTERIOR VIEW

The environments (living spaces) were designed as an open building concept with fixed and flexible elements. The units acted as frameworks to accommodate easy and inexpensive occupant expansion. This approach also makes sense in terms of affordability. Creating an urban support structure which is robust and of high quality and where the infill systems are of a variable quality and cost, in order to accommodate for a range of income groups.

This design consideration allows for maximum accessibility and transformation, so people may adapt the building to their own needs and accommodate easy and inexpensive occupant expansion. The project successfully resolved housing issues that are similar to housing issues in a South African scenario and demonstrates emphatically the role of architect authorship. The project successfully achieved: To take into account changing family structures and living patterns. Proposed defendable housing strategies in terms of designs that require less space, infrastructure, energy & materials. To investigate new design types for high-quality, high-density living. Challenging the loss of urban living quality in high density situations.

In the book, Housing: The Essential Foundation, the author, Dr. Paul N. Balchin makes the statement that professionals like architects, planners, landscape architects and other professionals are interested in raising the quality of the built environment (Balchin, P., Rhoden, M.1998:166). He further states that

to be able to raise the agenda of design in the low income housing sector is to encourage interprofessional co-operation, which according to him, is often lacking in the professional fragmented world (Balchin, P., Rhoden, M.1998:243). The author also states that it is crucial to raise the level of awareness and knowledge about design aspects currently lacking in Housing design and to seek to avoid many of the design issues made in the past. This mind shift is also applicable in the South African housing dilemma. It is important for architects (and planners, landscape architects etc.) to generate a much needed pragmatism and consideration when addressing the current issues of informal housing (Dewar, D. 1998:34). It should be realised by government that housing is a multi-dimensional issue with a multitude of role-players. Dr. Paul N. Balchin outlines the required change in methodological approach that is obligatory. These outlines are can be adapted and change to be applicable in a South African housing context. Authors of the South African built environment (primarily Architects) are to constitute a built environment which is social responsive and allows for a positive effect on the surrounding communities they work in, as partners in social, economic, and political transformation beyond the boundaries of their often modest sites. The focus needs to shift from designing the housing unit to designing viable and functional housing within its context to generate more prosperous neighborhoods (Hamdi, N. 2002:128). A housing project needs to be adapted to a specific context and must ultimately uplift the whole surrounding area (Dewar, D. 1998:16). Housing should not be dealt with in isolation but should generate architecture of social engagement. It is required to provide communities with more than just physical spaces in which to dwell in, but design an environment which facilitates opportunities for self-determination and an enhanced sense of identity. Architects should become more than only designers of mere buildings, but become the future moderators of change.

1. A New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa. 2012. A New Housing Policy and Strategy for South Africa. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.info.gov.za/whitepapers/1994/housing.htm. [Accessed 29 March 2012]. 2. A New Response to Informal Settlements | NGO Pulse. 2012. A New Response to Informal Settlements | NGO Pulse. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.ngopulse.org/node/13699. [Accessed 29 March 2012]. 3. A, Osman. C, Hindes. (2005). Housing design, Urban design. Architecture South Africa. Nov/Dec 05 (3), p58-63. 4. Balchin, P., Rhoden, M.1998. Housing: The Essential Foundations. New York: Routledge. 5. Dewar, D. 1998. Settlements, change and planning in South Africa since 1994. Cape Town: David Philip Publishing. 6. Elemental Iquique | Practices of the Global South. 2012. Elemental Iquique | Practices of the Global South. [ONLINE] Available at: https://urbaninformality.expressions.syr.edu/?tag=elemental-iquique. [Accessed 14 March 2012]. 7. Hamdi, N. 2002. Housing without Houses: Participation, flexibility, enablement. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold. 8. Quinta Monroy / Elemental | ArchDaily. 2012. Quinta Monroy / Elemental | ArchDaily. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.archdaily.com/10775/quinta-monroy-elemental/. [Accessed 14 March 2012]. 9. Uytenbogaardt, H. 1991. South African cities: Manifesto for change. Cape Town: Urban Research unit, UCT. 10. 2012. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.info.gov.za/view/DownloadFileAction?id=70824. [Accessed 29 March 2012].

PIC. 1 - Are informal settlements unnecessary evil to be done away with? - Environmental Reflections. 2012. Are informal settlements unnecessary evil to be done away with? - Environmental Reflections. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.waikato.ac.nz/wfass/e-reflections/2009/10/are-informalsettlements-unnec.shtml. [Accessed 08 April 2012]. PIC. 2 - Affordable housing | housing construction | building projects. 2012. Affordable housing | housing construction | building projects. [ONLINE] Available at:http://moladi.com/Affordable_housing.htm. [Accessed 08 April 2012]. PIC 3, 4 - Dezeen Blog Archive Quinta Monroy by Alejandro Aravena. 2012. Dezeen Blog Archive Quinta Monroy by Alejandro Aravena. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.dezeen.com/2008/11/12/quinta-monroy-by-alejandro-aravena/. [Accessed 08 April 2012].