Growing a building particularity as a strategy for upliftment of agriculture towns in South Africa

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Motivation: Small agriculture towns in South Africa are suffering economically since the number of jobs available in the agriculture sector has been decreasing rapidly. This is attributed to a deepening in capital in the agriculture sector (Hall & Cousins, 2015). Consequently, unemployment is the reality of many farming towns and often results in large numbers of young people seeking a better life elsewhere, causing a slow but steady dilapidation of the town. The job seekers move to the city and become yet another burden on the city's already overloaded infrastructure since they have little chance of employment in a city environment with an agriculture skill set. Proposition: This dissertation proposes to contribute towards urban upliftment through healing the supporting parts to the urban whole. Based on the complex adaptive systems theory the whole can only function through the parts and thus as well as its parts. This frames the understanding that since agriculture is a major part of the Western Cape's economy, the city (the whole) can only be totally healed through healing the supporting agriculture towns (the parts). The intention is to provide a strategy, through research, mapping and design exploration that will uplift the image and economy of small agriculture towns in the Western Cape. Thus providing the town's people with pride and hope, the unemployed with jobs and the youth with a future. Approach: Looking at the two extremes of a centralized and localized approach to architecture, economics and general development, a sustainable mid-way of a locally focused, yet globally relevant, angle is strived towards. This approach suggests moving away from an abstract planning towards using the conditions on the ground and the town plan to provide the future plan through small shifts. A pragmatic approach of developing a theory and methodology through practice has been followed. The sample local town has been mapped and investigated in order to create a grocery list of the existing or available resources, conditions and needs. The content is carefully analyzed to determine the smallest move, with the available resources, that will have the greatest positive effect. The scheme relies on a particularity approach which identifies a local kit of parts. The kit of parts is used to create a spatial connectivity across the town and formulate an urban upliftment scheme. The proposed building serves as supporting infrastructure to the spatial network and culminate the urban, spatial, social and economic schemes. The building is also conceived from the kit of parts and serves as a built analogue for the values of the scheme. This proposed methodology/particularity strategy for upliftment of agriculture towns will be applied to and tested on Porterville (a small farming town about 200km North West of Cape Town) in the form of a speculative project.

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