Philippi Sustainable Housing

Name Philippi Sustainable Housing
Client Philippi Business Place
Location Philippi, Cape Town
Status Unbuilt, 2006

The project is set in an abandoned cement factory site at Philippi, a low-income housing settlement on the periphery of Cape Town. The project design combines a number of different elements in an attempt to describe a new way to make a sustainable low-income housing neighborhood in South Africa. Central to this idea of a sustainable housing settlement is the notion of a productive landscape which offers the urban poor the opportunity to become self sufficient in a developing urban economy. The project also addresses the issue of sustainable energy systems and in so doing identifies the limits to what can be achieved in this context.

The notion of a sustainable neighborhood is also bound up with ideas of housing, production, consumption and exchange occurring within the same if not complementary sets of spaces. Exchange in this context occurs primarily through the idea of a productive landscape.

The project seeks to destabilize the comfortable assumption of current housing policy in South Africa, which assumes that all people desire the same form of housing, that all housing should be family housing and that all families can be described in essentially the same way. We do not subscribe to this view and the research that has emerged in Cape Town recently reinforces the view that the so-called traditional family structures in the low-income peripheral settlements of Cape Town have been replaced by entirely new forms.

This is due to the impact of a number of different factors, both known and unknown. Indisputably HIV/Aids has changed the structure of many families in both urban and rural areas – the number of single parents has increased dramatically as well as the number of parentless families.

Migration patterns persist and this factor, coupled with emerging economic and social factors, has resulted in new and very different social structures and patterns – for example the predominant head of the household is female and not male.

Family structures are under the same kind of pressures found in many countries around the world: there is a decline in formal family structures, many individuals choose not to marry or have children and choose to describe other ways of living in the city free from the kinds of social pressures and patterns that their parents and ancestors may have accepted without protest.

These factors require new ways of thinking about the provision of formally constructed housing. We recognize that informal systems of housing provision are infinitely flexible and offer great variety. The Philippi Project addresses this issue differently, since the housing that will be built on the site is funded by the state through a housing subsidy program and demands the construction of formally designed and state-approved housing units.

Technological systems were employed that addressed issues of sustainability and sought to locate these systems in the everyday processes of construction in the area.

Finally the architects believe firmly that there is a role for architects to play in the provision of adequate and plentiful housing for the urban poor and that design is crucial to this role. We believe that, even in the cynical post 9/11 world, it is possible to fuse social purpose and architectural form into a mutually satisfying set of relationships. The Philippi Cement Factory Project seeks to realise this potential.