The above quotation has played an important role in the conceptual development of the work of CS Studio Architects.It is extremely relevant in 2010 for the world as Global Warming has become a major issue on most people’s agenda and yet it needs to be dealt with in a holistic manner. Often sustainable development is addressed from a technological level. High-tech expensive solutions which are difficult to maintain, is not the only solution to creating sustainable environments. Since 1982 CS Studio Architects has worked as an architectural practice in South Africa and observed the way in which different cultures occupy space and land.

 

The practice discovered that the investigation of local conditions is far more interesting and complex. In this regard rural vernacular architecture provides solutions which are extremely interesting and relevant which are closely related to urban informal settlements. The practice discovered that Western European models mostly taught at University were not always relevant to our local context.

A traditional village is made up of a number of structures  which are spaced apart, with most of the social interactive spaces being outside. The structures are also placed with the doors facing east to bring in the morning sunlight. Roofs hang over the mud walls to protect them from rain while also shading them. It is a perfect system of natural materials, natural use of light and it is thermally appropriate. The way in which the buildings are ordered and placed in the landscape also provides valuable information regarding social and cultural structures. In most traditional examples the use of decoration is important.

 

In the urban context it is the same spatial use of juxtaposing smaller units in such a way to create useful in between spaces. When studying an aerial photograph one sees the intermediate social spaces. CS Studio have found the above aspects useful when planning any architectural solution from a town planning exercise for example the housing village at Caledon Helderstroom Prison to the school at Wesbank, Guga S’thebe Cultural Village and Commercial Centre Follainville – Dennemont, France. This aspect of making alternative rooms or spaces in between buildings allows one to utilise the spaces in a more cost effective way. These spaces are important circulation spaces where people move through.

 

The aim is to use these opportunities to stimulate social interaction. We want to refer to this as “free” space, it could also be looked at as the “in between” spaces. Circular spaces also allow one to contest the conventional square spatial solutions and can bring about juxtaposition of elements. In Africa traditionally many cultures lived in circular buildings.

A further observation of the manner in which space is occupied in Africa relates to cultural and social belief systems.

 

The spaces are usually more layered than the conventional three dimensional manifestation of space as is known in Western European contexts. The layering of space also comes back to cultural diversity which is important to understand and respect in contemporary times where global migration is the norm. CS Studio believes that respecting and incorporating cultural diversity is the key to produce rich urban environments.


   Guga S’thebe Cultural Village

 

Zolani Multi Purpose Centre

Wesbank School

   Helderstroom Prison

Helderstroom Prison

Follainville Multi Service Centre

PARTICIPATION – EMPOWERMENT – SUSTAINABILITY

 

CS Studio Architects has developed a way in which they work which is focused on listening to the clients or end users. This is an interactive and participative process. Each project demands its own activities. Interactive processes are a powerful tool in any design phase as it allows everyone to have a say and often leads to much better spatial solutions.By listening to people, the architect is provided with a wealth of information to feed into the design process. In the process of participation, roleplayers are empowered and they take ownership of their design decisions.


However, participation is generally seen only as a social process. This is when it fails. It needs to be underscored by making. We also believe that during the participation process technology can be the most valuable tool. It is important to understand what kind of recourses are available both material and human. A good understanding of assembly and the active transfer of skills through making therefore becomes an important component of the process.

Through research and experience it has proved to lead to more sustainable environments. It allows one to unleash the energy inside people. Spatial planning needs to be done in a way which allows the inhabitants occupying the space to enjoy it and to enhance the quality of life.

 

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