Design collective Urban-Think Tank recently released plans for housing that could help improve the infrastructure and general living conditions for residents of South Africa’s informal settlements. Empower Shack is a two storey structure designed to be affordable and easy to replicate in other areas. With more than 15 percent of the country’s population housed in 2,700 slum towns, it’s an important step that could help address extreme economic inequality.
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What makes the Empower Shack different from similar housing solutions is the architects have placed as much focus on the infrastructure of the community as they have on the house itself. Less complications mean it’s easier to provide power, clean water, sanitation, and access for emergency vehicles – on top of a safe place to live. Urban-Think Tank co-founder Alfredo Brillembourg explained to Dezeen in an interview that:
“While we are absolutely trying to innovate upon the design and technology of low-cost housing, we’re more concerned with the general ‘system’ that surrounds housing in the context of informal South African settlements.” He went on to add, “The Empower Shack project seeks to address these larger challenges, and in doing so, hopefully changes not just the built landscape of places like Khayelitsha, but also the social, political and economic structures that shape residents’ lives.”
So while the housing may not seem groundbreaking in its approach to sustainability, that’s because its focus is on affordable housing that can act as a building block for a more organized infrastructure. From that foundation, it’s possible for the community to thrive and reach a tipping point where they take control of their own destiny.
+ Urban-Think Tank
Images by Empower Shack
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