Visual Assessment as a Research Tool for Solving Spatial Problems in Khutsong Section Informal Settlement
University of Pretoria-SA
Drawings, plans, elevations
In South Africa there are many informal settlements experiencing worsening socio-economic living conditions, along with associated environmental and urban open space degradation. These socio-spatial problems have increasingly attracted the attention of and responses from the South African government and researchers, which culminated in the Department of Human Settlements' Upgrading of Informal Settlements Program (UISP) and the incremental housing development approach. Urban designers and architects, as design professionals, can make use of their visual-spatial skills to play a leading role towards developing urban open spaces and infrastructures, that enable socio-economic growth, through facilitating self-help, bottom-up, incremental and in-situ informal settlements upgrading initiatives. This thesis explored visual assessment as a tool that urban designers and architects can use to address micro-scale socio-economic and socio-spatial problems in informal settlements. A visual research methodology was explored, using Khutsong Section informal settlement as a vehicle, so as to formulate a generalised approach to the in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. Khutsong Section is located in Ivory Park township within the City of Johannesburg. The visual-spatial design process gained from a context of the study, visual analysis and interpretation of precedents as well as the analysis and understanding of the study area. The context-informed and -driven urban open space design process resulted in an integrative and consolidated spatial solution for Khutsong Section. The understanding obtained regarding specific micro-scale socio-economic activities, imbedded in prevailing spatial elements and features in informal settlements, has a broader applicability in the urban design and architecture professions. Therefore, the application of the visual research method contributes towards positioning urban designers and architects to be visionaries and pioneers in the sustainable in-situ upgrading of informal settlements. It also attempts to challenge the status quo in architectural education and practice. 95% of the world's population can hardly afford standard architectural professional fees in order to benefit from good design practices leading to a better quality of living. If this trend continues then the profession's relevance and value, to society at large, will be diminished. The profession can be innovative by restructuring its method of offering and charging services so as to be afforded by low-income earners, thus, taking advantage of the scale of economies of microeconomics.