After a first experience in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the Saga Collective is now continuing its action in the community of Joe Slovo. The team built a workshop dedicated to wood and metal work-based activities which was designed to create a local microenterprise, Saga now wants to reconstruct the Silindokuhle childcare centre. This centre will be capable of comfortably welcoming over 40 new children who have registered since Saga left. There are now 130 children in total. At the same time, a communal food-producing garden will be built on an adjacent plot: it will be a place for future pedagogic workshops on economically viable urban agriculture.
Joe Slovo township viewed from the site
Joe Slovo township
The project is happening in the township of Joe Slovo, a disadvantaged area of the city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa. A township is a very poor urban area, often informal, lacking basic services and very far from the economic centres of the city. Most townships were established under the apartheid regime with the intention to accommodate black and mixed-race populations. Joe Slovo formed in the 2000s. It is therefore one of the youngest in the city. It is located around 15 miles away from the city centre and it houses more than 9000 habitants. Most of them live in shacks, little self-constructed houses with very few means. The area is gradually benefitting from a national development program started by Nelson Mandela and the ANC: this program aims to build little stand-alone houses (RDP houses) that are gradually allocated to the area’s inhabitants. However, these houses are very rudimentary (36 to 42m2 for 1 or 2 rooms) and they are all built according to a unique model endlessly repeated on the landscape. This progress of the program is very slow and therefore only a tiny contingent of Joe Slovo’s population has the opportunity to benefit from it. The other part of the population can freely access local plots to build their own houses independently, but only for a temporary amount of time. The Access to water is limited to public water points distributed throughout the zone, and the access to electricity is highly irregular. Also, there is no sanitary system for any house. About 80% of Joe Slovo’s adult population is unemployed or cannot benefit from a stable job, and 20% is HIV positive. There are very few services dedicated to community upliftment except the services that are run by the inhabitants themselves. This ‘temporary’ situation has been prolonged for years and forces the inhabitants to live in extremely precarious conditions. They are stuck living in temporary structures and cannot benefit from any permanent construction.
The existing building
Facilitate a local initiative: The Silindokuhle Preschool
The story of this project started in 2008, when Mrs. Patricia Piyani or Mrs. P, who lives in Joe Slovo West decided to start a childcare centre in her own home and with her own money, in order to teach her children and the children of her neighbour’s. Indeed, there were no facilities in the vicinity for young children (under 6 years old) and Patricia, believing that education is a fundamental human right, wanted to offer this service to her community. She did not have the opportunity to benefit from school when she was young, but she longed to give the opportunity to the children in her area. Gradually, more and more kids were attending her classes and her house was becoming too small to accommodate all the children. Patricia decided to ask Joe Slovo’s community for some help to construct a very modest building, a shack made from second hand materials in which she could welcome more kids. This initiative became more and more popular and three women from the neighbourhood decided to join Patricia to help her teach more than 80 kids, from 2 to 8 years old.
Inside the existing preschool
The Silindokuhle Preschool was born.
(Silindokuhle means ‘waiting for a better future’ in Xhosa, Joe Slovo and Eastern Cape zone’s primary language)
This beautiful initiative was quickly supported by a local NGO called Love Story, that decided to help Patricia by offering her material and logistic supplies. The meeting between P and Love Story’s members created a new desire to build a bigger and salubrious building that would be more adapted to teaching. Indeed, the childcare centre is in a very unstable condition with children of all ages having to squeeze themselves inside of a very dark and mouldy room. Patricia and Love Story then joined with a third party called Indalo World, led by architect and doctor Kevin Kimwelle. Together, they established a design specification that outlines the construction of 4 services (a childcare centre, a community centre, a wood and metal workshop and food-producing gardens) around the childcare centre to support the lack of services dedicated to Joe Slovo’s community. The project is expanding/growing fast and wants to be experimental. By considering simple and repeatable construction processes based on reuse and establishing a participatory approach, the project aims to empower the residents of Joe Slovo through involvement in the construction of the community services. Saga collective is joining this new local team to formalize the project and continue the work on site.
Layout plan of the 4 phases
Our way of working: participative building site, public point of reference
We aim to actively involve the community throughout the process, from the conception to the realization of the proposed spaces. The process will comprise three correlating components:
- Field studies, mixing an anthropological approach (life on site, interviews, explorations, …) with a broader urban studies approach. This crucial step will enable us to understand more clearly the local context and its issues and foster strong relationships with Joe Slovo’s inhabitants. It will also allow us to question the pre-established program to adapt it as best as possible to the needs of the community, and gradually engage the residents of Joe Slovo and other city stakeholders in the project.
- A phase of experimentation around the themes of reusing and upcycling. The important industrial activity of Port Elizabeth generates a huge amount of wastes: this waste provides free or very cheap resources that can easily be reinjected in the construction field. This phase will involve identifying those resources and making a certain number of prototypes in order to experiment with different processes of implementing these varied materials. Following subsequent experimentation, a process of formatting will enable us to produce the necessary plans and procedures to construct the buildings.
Various ways of using a single palett
- A phase of construction work, a real platform of exchange at the very heart of the community. The building site is an open place for interaction, allowing space for the communication and exchange of knowledges. It joins our team with local volunteers, as well as French trainees and anyone wishing to get involved in their spare time, whatever their range of skills or age. The building site is a key moment that allows us all to learn from one another, as well as ourselves, through participating in a communal project. Because we want to amplify this dynamic, we will regularly organize events to unite everyone currently involved and also to invite new people who are interested. This also provides an opportunity for us to meet and exchange ideas with the community in an area where public spaces are very rare and often limited to distant malls and other places of mass consumption. This deliberately inclusive approach will enable us to maximise the appropriation of the constructions, creating a sense of continuity and durability for this project in the long term.
Events organized during the construction
Events organized during the construction
Events organized during the construction
Towards new initiatives
The first phase of this project, realized in 2015 by Saga and Indalo World allowed us to test the process that we suggested. It was remarkably successful and the dynamic arising from it is more than positive. The project allowed us to engage a substantial part of the community around Patricia’s initiative. Their kindness and direct commitment on the building site enabled the project to be realized in very good conditions. This proves that the collective effort carries a hugely positive message. Moreover, the building constructed in 2015 is used daily and has allowed the reception of 40 more young children in a safe and qualitative classroom environment. This is why is it essential to continue the started process and to construct the building that will definitively welcome the childcare centre.
Opening of phase 1
The workshop is currently used as a preschool
The success of the crowdfunding campaign will allow us to reach the necessary budget to the start the building work during mid-October 2016 for an opening of the childcare centre and the gardens on March 2017 !
Study phase - June / August 2016
Urban scale study and definition of the program with the community (workshops on site)
Design development - August / October 2016
Experimentations with the various materials collected, development of the architectural concept, establishment of the technical drawings
Construction - October 2016 / February 2017
There will be two construction site: prefabrication will happen in a warehouse in town and the rest on site
Opening of the new Silindokuhle Preschool - March 2017 !