University of Cape Town Archives - SASDI Alliance

2014 UCT – Europe Community Studio: Spatial Development Framework

By Academic, CORC, ISN No Comments

By Thandeka Tshabalala (on behalf of CORC)

Over the last four months Europe community members and Masters students of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Cape Town (UCT) collaborated on a joint planning studio to address some of the community’s most pressing concerns. Together, they began by conducting a site analysis and researching the opportunities and constraints presented in Europe. This research and site analysis led to developing concepts for in-situ, incremental upgrading projects. Read more about the concepts and the first developments of the studio here. The students then split into three groups and used these concepts to produce spatial development frameworks (SDFs), which act as a guiding document on the future development of Europe and surrounds.

Together with Europe residents the students recently presented their proposed SDF’s to their classmates and to City of Cape Town officials.  All three SDF’s had underlining themes, which were

1) Maximising the use of existing infrastructure

2) Developing activity nodes linked to existing major business and transport nodes whilst maintaining the transit character of the main spine (Klipfontein Road)

3) Increasing socio economic opportunities in Europe.

These proposals fittingly introduced the concept of incremental settlement upgrading.


The SDF in summary

1. Creating cultural and ecological nodes

  • The site analysis revealed the presence of several aquifers and wetlands on the site and along Klipfontein Road. In order to protect and enhance Europe’s scenery this natural biodiversity could be joined with pedestrian routes to attract different users to the site.
  • The area around Europe contains several sites of recent South African history that could increase the area’s potential as a cultural node. By connecting to sites such as the Gugulethu Memorial 7 and cemetery and cultural tours to the Cape Flats, residents could increase their access to economic opportunities.

2. Property sales

  • Although residents in Europe do not have tenure security, Europe’s leadership has recorded an enormous amount of property transfer in the settlement due to the high demand for well located affordable housing. During a transaction, the leadership keeps certified identity documents of both parties. These serve as a proof of sale of one’s property. Even in their derelict state most shacks have sold between R10 000 to R15 000.
  • Through their engagement, the students picked up on the importance of location – in terms of one’s own shack and in terms of the settlement location as a whole. They therefore introduced the concept of re-blocking as an incremental approach to housing which would decrease the level of flooding, open spaces for the provision of basic services, communal spaces and spaces of interaction. Moreover, it would improve the quality of life in the whole settlement.
  • Many groups viewed re-blocking as a short-term strategy that could be implemented easily without displacing people. It would also provide residents with the opportunity to access short-term housing structures.


3. Creating activity nodes

  • The Cape Town SDF sets out a hierarchy of different movement routes across the metropolitan area. It focuses on North – South and East – West accessibility. Europe’s location between an urban freeway (N2) and a development route (Klipfontein RD) means that Klipfontein Road presents a greater potential for activity nodes than the impenetrable N2.
  • Heideveld station also provides a critical link between the road and rail network, making this an important node for future development.
  • The analysis uncovered that the Golden Arrow bus route bypasses an important section of Klipfontein Road. This means that the residents of Europe and surrounds, who are already earn a low-income, need to pay for additional taxi transport to reach the closest bus and train station. Some residents also use the local transport ‘Amaphela ‘ due to the area’s high crime levels, which make walking unsafe.
  • As a MyCiti bus station will soon be implemented in Mitchell’s Plain, the intersection between Bocherds Quarry and Klipfontein Roads will in all likelihood grow as a transit node. It therefore has potential to develop into a transport interchange with supporting activities.

Throughout this discussion it was crucial to see Europe as a functional settlement in its own terms and thus limit the distance travelled to access jobs and other socio –economic opportunities.

4. Maximising existing neighbouring corridors

  • Much developmental activity has focussed on improving upcoming North-South corridors such as Parklands and Mitchell’s Plain. There is a need therefore to establish linkages to upcoming opportunities.
  • There is also a need to increase vertical connections to the settlement such as access to Voortrekker Road, which is one of the busiest roads connecting Bellville and Cape Town.


5. Short term interventions – livelihoods and food security

  •  After several discussions with the community, the importance of access to employment and food security was clear. Residents felt that they needed to be able to support their households in order for them to start looking at broader issues such as upgrading.
  • After this discussion the community came together and collected their names and livelihood interests on a piece of paper. Those with common interests were then grouped together to begin discussing how they could start livelihoods programs. These included hair dressing, carpentry, gardening etc.  The students put together a pamphlet in isiXhosa with a list of organisations that assist in skills development such as Abalimi Basekhaya and The Carpentry Shop.

In the next phase of the studio the students will develop precinct designs of the settlement and write a short reflection of the studio as a whole. 

2014 UCT – Europe Community Studio “The Beginning”

By CORC, ISN No Comments

By Thandeka Tshabalala and Yolande Hendler (on behalf of CORC)

Community members and students locate structures and amenities in Europe informal settlement.

Community members and students locate structures and amenities in Europe informal settlement.

On 19 February 2014, Europe community members welcomed about thirty masters students of Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Cape Town (UCT) to their informal settlement, which is located in Gugulethu, Cape Town. This first gathering kicked off a four month long ‘planning studio’ in which community members and students will work together to address some of the community’s most pressing concerns. The studio also aims to expose students to alternative planning approaches to urban informality. The Informal Settlement Network (ISN) facilitates and supports the community leadership while CORC offers technical support as the community and students develop plans for upgrading. Read more on the background leading up to the 2014 studio.

First meeting in Europe

Community members and students gathered in Europe’s community hall where ISN and CORC shared opening insights on the importance of community participation, mobilization and capacitation. Such an approach forms a solid foundation for planning community-relevant issues such as access to basic services and housing. Situated close to employment opportunities at the Airport Industria and the N2 corridor, Europe’s location is ideal for its residents. For this reason students and community members decided that it would be ideal to look at in-situ, incremental upgrading projects. In order to give students a more concrete idea of ‘life in Europe’ community members showed them around their settlement. This opened up a platform for both community members and students to reflect and share their expectations for the studio ahead.

Students' first visit to Europe.

Students’ first visit to Europe.

The purpose of the studio is two-fold: For the community, technical support around housing and upgrading are advantageous for engaging government. For the students it is advantageous to gain valuable experience in working in a highly collaborative and participatory environment around some of the most pressing issues in the city.

After the visit, CORC’s technical team joined the students at UCT in order to reflect before the next joint planning session with community members. Based on the students many impressions – for some it was the first visit to an informal settlement – a variety of ideas, concerns and suggestions arose. Some students related Europe to studies of urban informality in the global South, others explored how the meaning of boundaries in communities impacts opportunities and community interaction.  Some concerns related to the lack of public interaction spaces, lack of socio-economic activity and the need to value recycling as a source of income. Other students emphasized the importance of collaborative and participatory planning methods.  Towards the end, one of the students seemed to capture the general sentiment that

“We need to develop new sets of eyes to understand the logic systems, local assets and already present ways of doing things in Europe. We need to identify local systems. The community needs to identify its own opportunities”

Joint planning for action

The next session was an interactive one with a printed map of Europe. It was marked with some reference points, landmarks and amenities that would serve as a collaborative working document to gather information about the settlement from community members.  This meeting focused on sharing expectations and establishing specific issues the community wanted to address. Furthermore, it established where students’ interests and abilities aligned with community priorities.  With great excitement, students and community members located their homes on the map, marked off the boundaries of Europe and identified central spaces. Community members also expressed that they would like the studio’s incremental projects to support their long-term vision of attaining housing. This focus is linked to the question: “how permanent is our temporary?” As communities wait for permanent housing, there is a need of assisting well located settlements such as Europe to upgrade, but not lose sight of the long term vision.


Interactive mapping at UCT

After several visits to Europe, students expressed the significance they perceived in planners moving away from physical planning to focus on the people they are planning with, i.e. understanding their background and socio-economic context within the larger context and potential of the city. The students thus based their analysis of Europe community on reinforcing socio-economic opportunities.

Through engaging with residents’ already present coping mechanisms students researched opportunities, constraints and concepts for future action. The opportunities they presented included access to employment, recreational spaces, spaces of interaction, education and small businesses. The identified constraints comprised flooding, crime, physical and social barriers, pollution and poor soil quality affecting food production. Together, community members and students developed working groups that respectively looked at socio-economic issues, transport, housing / land / tenure issues and water, sanitation and storm water services.

Working Groups 2

A working group in Europe

The working groups then identified more concrete concepts:

  • Socio-economic opportunities around Klipfontein Road

Klipfontein Road was presented as a main artery of opportunity as Europe’s main entry point and connecting point to other neighbourhoods. The industrial area at the airport was presented as a potential source of employment. A further point related to taking advantage of existing business that represent high activity nodes.

  • Easing access to public transport routes

This was particularly relevant due to the community’s reliance on pubic transport.

  • Potential upgrading and re-blocking
  • Strengthening food production

The focus would lie in increasing food security whilst decreasing poverty levels.

  • Overcoming barriers to neighboring communities

This would facilitate greater interaction between communities.

During the presentation students emphasized the knowledge they had gained from the community in developing these concepts,

“ We regard the community as experts, they have all along been able to use their human architecture to deal with the physical constraints of the space they live in.”

The next phase of the studio will comprise developing a spatial development framework. CORC and ISN will continue to share the studio’s upcoming developments.