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Architectural History and Theory

In 2022, the Architectural History and Theory (AHT 1) will focus on scale and its implied relationships of the body to other matters across time and geography. Through the device of scale, the year will explore the body (1:100), territory (1:1000) and culture (1:10 000) and their implications on how architecture produces culture and is in turn produced by culture.

In the Q1, the notion of a ‘1:100’ scale will guide us in analysing the body’s relationship to tools and how they continue to shape us. The course will cover the body to make sense of its importance in the architectural practice’s emergence and consolidation, from da Vinci to Le Corbusier’s Modulor. We will use the body to emphasise tools as the body’s extension. We will conclude Q1 by positing some critical theory on the body’s modularity and its implications on how we make it. Architecture takes place in space and territory. One can define architecture as an art of articulating boundaries— those boundaries include but are not limited to the house, the street, the neighbourhood, the nation and the continent.

In Q2, using the scale ‘1:1000’, we explore the body’s relationship to space — real and imagined— and how particular ideas shape how we construct enclosures. We will ask how drawing methods direct the ways we make and imagine space and suggest other ways to think about our choices in drawing territories into place.

In Q3, we will focus on the scale ‘1: 10 000’ as a device to look at the intangibles that inform our cultural ways of making. The use of culture — without the capital ‘C’— concerning architecture will bring together some of the insights explored in the previous sections. The architecture here will be viewed through vernacular practices extending beyond conceptions of the body as hermetic. In reflecting upon the importance of urban culture, we will pay particular attention to the relationship between culture and space and how histories inform ways of making. In Q4, we will prioritise the translation of our ideas into cultural production.


Programme Convener


AHT Assistant

Drawing Jeppe Hostel

Georgia Satchwell

Walking into Jeppe Men’s Hostel from Wolhuter Street, the archway marking the entrance to the property reads ‘WOLHUTER MENS HOSTEL’, the word ‘NATIVE’ subsequently removed. The imprint of the word, however, still remains, like a ghost haunting the hostel and reminding everyone of its oppressive roots.

Jeppe Men’s Hostel is a highly textured space, with clothes hanging from exterior windowsills lining the street - simply looking for somewhere to dry - and cowhides draped over long dilapidated Telkom payphone booths, with the intention of being turned into traditional Zulu shields at some point. The hostel is a space of resilience, its inhabitants sharing the qualities to those of the protagonist Panic, from the film Mapantsula - a term used for “South African street gangs identified by their style of clothing and music. In their harsh surroundings, there are no rules, and survival of the fittest is the order of the day.” (Mapantsula, 1988)

Throughout the film Fanakalo is spoken, a “lingua franca” which constitutes a melange of corrupted bits of the Nguni languages, English and Afrikaans. Fanakalo is derived from the South African mines and was born out of the need for speakers of African languages and speakers of European languages to communicate, and is today still widely used. (Hurst-Harosh, 2018)

Walking around the hostel provides a view into the stark reality of South Africa’s migrant labourers, although moments of homeliness and community are still clearly found throughout the environment. Despite the harsh living conditions of the hostels, much like those of the mining compounds which were designed with the same agenda, men are able to create thriving social lives and when navigating the barely-lit corridors, the smell of warm, flavoursome stew and the sound of chatter permeate the air. I was taken by the image of a chessboard painted onto one of the plastic dining tables in the Jeppe Hostel Kitchen, emblematic of the community activity and resourcefulness of the people that reside in this space.

Outside, perched high on the roof of one of the newer 1990s additional hostel buildings, a man sits with headphones on, listening to music and watching the activity down below. This is probably the quietest moment one can find, as it seems almost impossible to find privacy in the overcrowded spaces of these hostels, with almost eleven men in a four-man room. (Maseko, 2015) Leaving the hostel, the smell of rotting trash fills the air, an unfortunate reality that is testament to the lack of service delivery provided to the hostels. Outside the men bustle on and crowd around, perched on cinder blocks at the entrance, drinking from beer bottles and telling stories.
by Georgia Satchwell. 2022. 

Kyle Kallides

Upon my visit to the Jeppe men’s hostel, I tried to distance myself from any pre-existing expectations I may have had, and began my visit with an open mind. Upon arriving at the hostel, you enter the main hostel gate into a sort of food eating and preparation area. I found it interesting how the act of preparing food seemed more like a community ritual, with a group of people cooking, and people chopping meat while sharing conversations.

Further down, a pile of old tires lay in a corner, they are being repurposed into new shoes for the members of the hostel.

As you begin to walk through the hostel courtyards, you begin to feel a sense of community, this once prison-like apartheid fortress is now filled with music, spaza shops and pool table areas. Although a dilapidated infrastructure and poor living conditions are still an overarching theme throughout the hostel, some Zulu traditions are finding their way through the cracks and trying to adapt to this foreign place that the residents are forced to call home. The old telephone booths filled with animals skins laid out to dry, a filthy courtyard transformed into a performance space on weekends and an old passbook office, now home to a mini shebeen. In contrast to the hostel, the Maboneng precinct lies just one kilometre away, a new project in the inner city that aims to attract many tourists in an attempt to revitalize the city. But Jeppe residents claim not to have benefited from the new jobs in the area (Nicolson 2015), and hostel residents are expressing their anger stating that they have been neglected for 25 years since the dawn of democracy and the hostel has not seen any fruits of democracy (Lebuso 2019). Critics have linked the issue back to the city’s failure to focus on inclusive development (Nicolson 2015).

These are perfect examples that direct my thoughts to Zandi Shermans statement, that “Race mediates the circulation and mobility of bodies” (Sherman 2022). These issues raise a concerning question: after years of democracy and the fall of apartheid, can these residents say that they are free? When these spatial injustices are still going on today and the class polarization gap ever-widening, as developers choose to ignore the dark side of the city. Race is an infrastructure (Sherman 2022). This comment rings too true.
by Kyle Kallides. 2022.

Titus Shitaatala

The Jeppe Men’s Hostel is located in Wolhuter Street in Jeppestown. Harry Wolhuter himself was a game ranger at Kruger National Park. On the 26th of August 1904 while on patrol, he was attacked by two lions. One chased after the horse which ran off while the other focused on Wolhuter, dragging him by the shoulder to a nearby bush. Wolhuter managed to get out his pocketknife and stab the lion twice. Once in the heart and once in the neck, killing it instantly (John Theunissen 2019). Considering this, it is quite fitting for the hostels to have been named after him. His endurance is truly mirrored by the hostels which have overcome the great political, social and economical adversity through a migrant labour system that dehumanized workers during the apartheid era (fig. 1).

The migrant worker system used the marriage of colonialism and capitalism as a tool to repress the native worker who came to the city and the hostels in search of work opportunities. According to Christo Vosloo (2020:2), the hostel is a physical legacy of a systemic policy of racial discrimination and exploitation of the South African indigenous people whose only crime was coming to the city in search of better work opportunities. Instead, they were welcomed by a system based on Panopticon, a design for a prison and social control system that symbolized authority and discipline Vosloo (2020:2) (fig. 2). The theory is centred around monitoring as many people with as few guards as possible. Christo Vosloo (2020:23) adds that the hostels were also very neglected on the inside, a reflection of the neglect the native worker faced as a human. Which explains the Jeppe Hostel typology which was clearly designed for easy observation. Strict policies were put in place to separate the native man from his family, his culture, women, the city and other ethnic groups.

The policies included:
  1. You had to be over 18 to be allowed entry
  2. You had to have a passport or an ID.
  3. You needed to have a permit.
  4. No woman was allowed in the hostels.

Even the beer hall which would seem like a kind gesture to the natives was used as a control system (Fig. 2). The beer hall could only be visited on weekends and was only accessible during certain periods. It was also a means of getting tax from the natives with no intention of developing their environment.

With the slow collapse of colonial control and the abolishment of influx control in 1986, entropy slowly took its course and a combination of political neglect and poor management structures saw the deterioration of the men’s hostel. The hostels are now very overcrowded, and isolation is still alive today as it is mostly only inhabited by Zulu people. On the 115th anniversary of Wolhuter’s miraculous survival at the hands of the lions, the killing of a taxi driver trying to stop a drug dealing in Pretoria sparked violence which spread to the Hostel about a week later (Sthembiso Lebuso 2022). The motivation was for South Africans to take back their country from immigrants. Immigrants who moved to the city in search of better opportunities just as they had in the past. In this way, the hostel has become a paradox. The violence is an extension of the violence experienced during apartheid and mirrors the violence of the time too. Further proof of the way colonial systems continue to haunt the hostel both intangibly and tangibly through the colonial style buildings which overlook the hostel (fig. 3)

There is a large sense of ownership and belonging in the hostel now. There is now a celebration of Zulu culture and traditional systems (fig. 4). This is evident in the structures set up in the hostel, the implementation of a shisa nyama, dry mielie leaves which are sent back to Kwa-Zulu Natal for cows in case of droughts. Cowhides could also be found, these are used as skirts for women and traditional shields for men. All these show a direct link to traditional systems which were previously missing in the area, but perhaps the strongest link is in the form of the caretaker of the hostel. The caretaker is a traditional healer, so he not only takes care of the hostel but the health of the people as well. A contrast to the neglect which was previously experienced in the hostel.
by Titus Shitaatala. 2022.

Notebook Cartography

by Chinenye Chukwuka. 2022. (download pdf)

Our world is haunted by spectres - the vestiges and practices of the past, present and future - which take the form of destructive histories and dreamworlds of progress. The Anthropocene lingers as humanity’s shadow.

This poem map is based on the notion of Swahili poem-maps, which were used by sailors to help situate and navigate themselves in their contexts, and comprise both real and imagined qualities of geographies.

The selected text that weaves itself across this fractured paper terrain is taken directly from the various readings, guest lectures, films, discussions and personal reflections that were engaged with throughout the first semester of Architectural History and Theory.

Made in the image of its creator, the manipulated text reveals and conceals aspects of its references to tell a particular narrative that speaks to themes of destruction, preservation, notions of the “natural”, standardisation, memory and ecological embodiment.

These stories and occupations weigh heavy on the landscape, creating gaping lesions and a myriad scars. What remains is a fragile world.

One begins to speculate at how to navigate this damaged planet. In the future will the earth need to be terraformed for new life to grow?

Much like the terrains it represents, the handmade paper is a medium that has undergone a process of manipulation and been largely stripped of its natural qualities. This landscape offers a surface for future histories to be written.

Finally, the poem aspires for an architecture retranslated through its ever-evolving vernacular environment.

by Georgia Satchwell. 2022. (download pdf)
by Titus Shitaatala. 2022. (download pdf)


Georgia Satchwell

This series of plant parchment essentially serves as a tool for mapping the terrain of Delta Park, my chosen site during this stage in my Major Design Project (MDP). Each sheet of plant parchment is made from plant fibre collected at a particular area of the site. The map of Delta Park (Figure 2) illustrates the foraging routes made over two days, marked in blue and red. Much like the way a photograph aims to document the world, recording a moment in time, the plant parchment captures the conditions and seasonal changes of Delta Park at the particular time of foraging.

Serving as artefacts of the site, the plant parchment tells us that in the months of April and May, when the plant fibre was collected, the Cosmos flowers are in bloom, the winter frost has not yet arrived because the grass is still alive and green, and trees - such as Cypress, Maple and Pine - are shedding their leaves. The plant parchment also speaks to other conditions of the site that relate to issues and themes identified in my MDP. For instance, the sheet of plant parchment made from grass also includes plastic wrappers, which were picked up in the same area. These wrappers are traces of human beings and their neglect, and their presence begins to speculate at the future of our natural environment. Relating to the Anthropocene and its effects on our world, my research delves into the spectres - the vestiges and practices of the past, present and future - that haunt our world, which take the form of destructive histories and dreamworlds of progress.

Although the plant parchment looks raw and resembles the original state of the plant fibre, it has been heavily manipulated and stripped of its natural qualities in order to preserve the material. While there are myriad techniques and tweaks in the plant parchment making process that allow one to achieve varying outcomes, the methods I used are specific to the recipes found in a library book.

Matteo panter

Although each drawing was completed using an identical method, we immediately notice that each drawing boasts a completely different set of drawn shapes and forms. By identifying a predetermined set of rules before beginning the task, we are now able to understand, through the by-product of the method, what sort of outcomes we can expect when complying to those set rules.

These rules consist of:
  • Use of tracing paper
  • Use of charcoal
  • Use of a contour model

Pranav Kalyan

The Museum of Red-Gold

“Using plants is merely fascilitating a biochemical conversation, which is often far beyond our comprehension and our understanding.”
-Bevin Clare

The Museum of Red-Gold is a project that intends to encapsulate the multiple phantom narratives of Crocus Sativus Linnaeus1, that we see rooted in various countries throughout history. In identifying the power struggles, manifested through ownership over this veblen commodity, this project aims to gain a comprehensive study governing the successes and failures of cultivating this herb. Thus, this will describe the modifications it may influence if successfully intergrated and adapted in the context of South Africa. The introduction of this commodity begins, in what can be defined as fragile landscapes2, namely agricultural rural lands – which in itself contains a certain complexity. If this network is interrogated with the necessary tools, it may uncover an ecosystem that has yet to tell its story, therefore formulating a study catalogue of various scales outlining how this may impacts the livelihoods of people. Through describing the phantom spatial ingredients, which have been created by this migrant – saffron, it will offer the opportunity to gain a speculative onlook into the subliminal alchemy traced into defining these dynamic spheres as the constructs of the Old world and New world, which will thus become a transitional threshold into rethinking the parameters of what constitutes the recipe of an artificial sublime3. (Burke, 1844)

…to consider craft is simply to be interested in making: to understand things, be they chairs or cities, as artefacts that demand asking how they have been made, by whom, and what their making tells us about the societies they have been made for.” (Rossi, 2017)

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