The Role of Public Facilities in Innovative Approaches to Redevelopment

The lack of community space within the informal settlements in South Africa limits people’s ability to gather for community meetings, to provide services, such as soup kitchens, and to hold church services or children’s programmes. In Monwabisi Park, other than local shebeens (taverns), there are only two community halls and approximately nine formal churches, which is insufficient for the entirety of the population (Coleman, et al., 2010). The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Programme (VPUU) is taking the lead on the Informal Settlement Upgrading Programme (ISUP), which is an approach to in situ upgrading. The programme emphasizes developing critical infrastructure through the engagement of community members throughout the process. The VPUU has begun to implement the ISUP concept in Monwabisi Park to satisfy a range of needs, including public facilities for recreation and communal gatherings.

The Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) Cape Town Project Centre (CTPC) meanwhile has advanced the “redevelopment seed” concept, an approach to community upgrading that also begins with creating public spaces (WPI CTPC, 2008; Jiusto and Hersh, 2009). WPI has worked with local residents and organizations, notably the Indlovu Project and the Shaster Foundation, who are committed to the sustainable redevelopment of Monwabisi Park (WPI CTPC, 2008). These organizations have been exploring innovative, hands-on approaches to meet the needs of the community. In large part because of these efforts, Monwabisi Park has been chosen as an ISUP pilot site, under which the VPUU is leading efforts to improve existing spaces through collaborative projects. Innovative approaches allow all stakeholders to gain a new perspective and to learn from each other when working to satisfy community needs.


Co-researchers are local residents that serve as the liaison between the student groups and the community. They are vital to both the acceptance of the students within the community as well as communication between the students and other locals. They provide the social connections needed to successfully carry out tasks vital to the completion of the projects.  Our team worked closely with the co-researchers to network throughout the community.  They provided contacts with neighbors to the B-Section Community Hall, as well as neighbors to the Kick-About, which allowed us to involve the community in our projects.  Some of them also assisted in the physical construction processes.
Co-Researcher Page

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Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading

Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading has served as the sponsor for this project. Specifically, Kathryn Ewing was the main contact person between the WPI team and the VPUU, assisting both with design input and communication to move the project along. The VPUU provided significant funding for the construction of the sanitation system, including materials and labour.

VPUU Workers

Five workers provided by the VPUU served as a labor force to assist us in the construction of the sanitation system. These men were available every day during the construction process and were extremely helpful in accomplishing many of the physical tasks needed. They were knowledgeable in different areas of construction, and were extremely helpful during various stages of the process such as concreting.


Volunteers were vital for the completion of the B-Section Hall repairs. Due to time constraints, many of the projects would not have been completed without their help. We were assisted everyday by three local residents, all of whom provided expertise and unique methods of accomplishing different tasks. They were all men who became interested in our project when walking by our construction site and spontaneously deciding to assist us. They were people we learned to depend on for physical assistance and design considerations. Interactions with these volunteers allowed us to gain helpful insight into local building techniques and methods, as well as give us the opportunity to get to personally know the volunteers and learn about their lives.

In addition to the spontaneous volunteers, we were also assisted by Abongile, a local carpenter. Abongile was experienced, having been one of the main people that built the Indlovu Centre. His experience and knowledge about the needed steps and correct ways of constructing the roof were extremely helpful during the building process.

Residents of B-Section

Neighbors of the B-Section hall

During construction, there were a few neighboring residents that helped out. The man that lives directly next to the B-Section Hall allowed our workers access to his roof, helping during construction when the hall’s roof was still being built. Another neighbor allowed us to store their backpacks and other supplies in her yard during the working days, and this area also served as a shaded place for lunches and water breaks during construction.  A third neighbor allowed us to use his yard as storage for the zinc roof panels when us was replacing the roof.

4EVR Plastics

4EVR Plastics was an extremely useful resource during our research process and through the supply of needed materials. This company and its representatives provided valuable input while we were designing the system, advising us of the proper placement of the tanks and the appropriate size for each tank.  They were able to work closely with us by answering any questions we may have had regarding the design of the septic system.

Dr. Kevin Winter

Dr. Kevin Winter, a lead researcher in urban water management at the University of Cape Town, assisted us by informing us about different biological processes related to anaerobic digestion of waste and waste disposal.  He also provided information regarding anaerobic baffled reactors and how to construct them.  He proved a valuable resource for the design, providing expertise and feedback.

Residents of C-Section

Crèche owner

The crèche owner provided us with keys to the crèche every day during construction.  With access to the crèche we were able to use the tap located inside the fence to fill the tanks and mix concrete, a valuable resource because of the amount of concrete that needed to be mixed and the water needed to fill the tanks when encasing them in concrete.

Hose owner

Another neighboring resident lent us the use of his hose every day during construction.  It was necessary to wet the sand while digging and water was needed during the mixing of concrete.  It was also helpful because without his hose, we would not have had enough hose to get water from two taps at the same time.