CIfA 2017 Award for Architecture: Community Residential Units, Langa – Architects Associated


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The precinct comprises 463 two-bedroom units of 40 square meters each, in three or four storey buildings and one five storey building, thereby achieving a density of 230 units per hectare. Its realisation was enabled through the Community Residential Units funding model, which aims to provide public rental housing stock for households earning between R800 to R3500 a month. Within this context of rental affordable housing delivery, this project has meritorious architectural, spatial, and community enhancing achievements.

The development of medium density affordable housing is a critical urbanisation challenge facing the urban poor and the authorities responsible for facilitating this. The history of the multi storeyed flats in the Cape Flats has resulted in a poor experimental legacy of multi-storeyed affordable housing. However, over the last few decades, there has been an emerging acceptance of medium density, well-located housing as an alternate to moving to serviced sites or BNG housing to the periphery.

This project overcame the challenge of construction on the sandy Cape soils through innovation in the design of foundations and a load bearing structural system that uses reinforced concrete block for buildings of four to five storeys. This enabled the main contractor to make extensive use of local labour and subcontractors, delivering the project within 20 months. Future maintenance of the housing stock was considered with care.

The layout of the precinct emphasizes as the main focus a network of pedestrian routes and courts or play areas with a new public square to the corner of Bhunga Avenue and Ndabeni Street. Pockets of parking complement these courts and contribute to the comfortable scale of the internal streetscapes. Green spaces, still coming into their own, will provide welcome reprieve when they are more established. The vertical gradation of the buildings and the use of staircases or balconies and vistas to terminate longer views through the precinct all add to a sense of identity.

Walkways and the narrower streets create thermal buffering and shading as well as thermally mediated environments against the harsh South Easterly blown wind and sand and horizontal North West rain. The units are all connected to solar water heaters thereby decreasing energy cost and demand. More efficiencies may have been possible through collectivised systems with potential use of heat pumps and separate meters. Eliminating the use of reinforced concrete structural frames further reduces the ecological footprint of this building.

This project is recognised for its delivery of medium density low income public rental housing in Langa, through a sensible approach to place making that serves the local community through the making of robust architecture and an urban environment that is people friendly, pedestrian focused and addresses crime prevention through Urban Design. The finishing of the courtyards spaces further adds to the livability and breathability of a density medium development. Simple avenues, streets and courtyards are positioned skillfully to create a variety of places and spaces.

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