2015 Mandela Day: Paint Empower Shack

Project Overview

Design strategy collective Urban-Think Tank has designed and built a prototypical house as part of an initiative to improve housing conditions of housing in some of the 2700 informal settlements across South Africa. 

Urban-Think Tank,   has teamed up with ETH Zurich university and NGO iKhayalami to search for ways that architects can help improve the environment and security of these slums that house approximately 15 percent of the country’s entire population.

Working under the title Empower Shack, the team organised a design-and-build workshop in Khayelitsha, and developed a design for a low-cost two-storey shack for local resident Phumezo Tsibanto and his family. 

The team then worked together to replace Tsibanto’s existing single-storey dwelling with the new two-storey structure, giving the family a new home with a watertight exterior and its own electricity. This house now functions as the prototype for the rest of the Empower Shack project. 

The designers are now exploring different configurations of the prototype that will allow it to adapt to the needs of different residents, extending up to three storeys when necessary.

This in turn becomes part of a wider strategy for rationalising the layout of the entire community, known as blocking out. This involves creating access routes for emergency vehicles and providing basic services such as sanitation and water.

We at Design Space Africa wished to raise awareness of the Empower Shack project around the community and the rest of the public and opted to paint Phumezo’s House on Mandela Day.

Alfredo Brillembourg, founder and co-director of Urban Think Tank birthed the concept for the paint colours. He was influenced by ideas around South Africa as the Rainbow Nation along with Venezuelan kinetic art, Venezuela being his country of origin. The concept was developed further by Paris based graphic designer Ruedi Baur and Stephanie Briers at Design Space Africa. 

It was a day well spent getting to know Phumezo, his family and neighbours. Our day was nothing short of inspiring and moving and the community offered much insight to the many issues surrounding housing in South Africa.

A big thank you to our sponsors Olympia Paints, ProPaint, Ruedi BaurPhotographers Jan Ras and Mandy Rigtering.

More information about the project here