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Alfredo Brillembourg is the Rebellious Architect Tackling South Africa’s Housing Crisis

Khumo Sebambo | Design Indaba   in 
February 9, 2016

Alfredo Brillembourg, an architect and the co-founder of Urban-Think Tank (U-TT), believes that realisable micro-projects can have a major impact on the people living in rapidly urbanising cities. Through U-TT, Brillembourg is implementing design innovations for rapid and incremental informal settlement upgrades in the global South and, most recently, South Africa’s townships.

Following the end of apartheid, the South African government promised to improve the quality of housing and despite their efforts, there has been little noticeable change in many of South Africa’s townships. Approximately 7.5 million South Africans remain informally housed in 2 700 squatter camps and urban slums scattered across the country.

Brillembourg conceived the idea for Empower Shack after visiting Cape Town in 2012 and speaking at that year’s Design Indaba Conference as U-TT. The Empower Shack is an immediate, incremental solution to the housing problems that many South Africans face. Directed by U-TT, Cape Town-based NGO Ikhayalami Development Services and associated local and international partners like Design Space Africa, the Empower Shack is an interdisciplinary and participatory housing prototype built in the BT-Section of Khayelitsha.

“I’m bridging a hybrid between formal and informal housing,” says Brillembourg. Built for community leader Phumezo Tsibanto, and his family, the first iteration of the Empower Shack featured a two-storey metal-clad modular wood frame structure that is economical for the residents and can be self-built.


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