Empowering Power Town : a contextual study that ascertains social and architectural sustainability

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

My thesis investigates the ability to generate social and architectural sustainability from the surrounding context of a specific site- Power Town. A thorough analysis of the changing social conditions, cultural values and natural processes are done to be part of, and inform, this hypothesis. My architectural interventions are thus informed by the existing and will be a reflection of Power Town's vernacular. The first part of the document introduces Power Town to the reader, where it is situated and how it came to be, and why it is an unproductive settlement. Part two, 'a landscape enthused architecture', explores cultural, productive and responsive landscapes and their implication in architecture. Methods are investigated that help to uncover the complex layers of site and landscape. This thorough understanding Bird' s eye view of Power Town (Wildlife Expressions, Power Town) of the landscape will inform the design proposal. It will illustrate that Power Town has much potential to develop and evolve within its environment. In part three, 'adaptability', I discuss the potential of reusing structures, as they are, instead of demolishing them, clearing the site, and constructing new architecture. In many situations, manmade structures already exist in the context of a site and the adaptive reuse of them will be a productive addition to the context. New architecture must also be able to adjust and accommodate the unpredictable needs of the future. The fourth part, 'sustainable materials', is an investigation of a productive use of materials. Using materials originated from the context is the key initiative here. It makes for a sustainable construction that reflects the context and blends in with the landscape. This includes possibilities such as materials produced or harvested on site and the reuse of demolition- and industrial waste. All topics are discussed as interrelated issues that could contribute to the restoration of Power Town's dignity. Part five, 'design', is the synthesis of all these opportunities. A site making strategy that allows for unpredictable incremental phasing is designed initially. A number of design principles are implemented in this place making that would contribute to ascertaining social and architectural sustainability. The main idea here is to exploit the existing farming, fishing and construction abilities in the community and initiate a productive landscape. The place making plan lays the foundation for the design of a production centre. I propose to adapt and reuse the existing derelict power station. This new public building will form the heart of Power Town's productivity. It will house a number of facilities that offer, mainly; skills development workshops in different forms of production; a multi-usable auditorium; a production nursery; as well as flexible market, storage and work space for the processing and distribution of foodstuff in the community.