ASA Architects completes new government housing development in Johanesburg
Located in Alexandra Township, Johannesburg Metropol, Gauteng Province RSA, the project was developed by Alexandra Renewal Programme (ARP) of Provincial Department of Housing and completed in October 2009
The project is situated on a narrow, 25.8ha aborted road servitude and consists of 3250 units for both owenership and rental.
The brief addresses the reality of ‘backyard rentals’ so prolific in Alexandra Township, where tenants pay rent to a property owner for ‘tin shacks’ in the backyard. Living conditions are precarious, no sanitation or electricity, poor structure and a constant fire hazard.
The brief called for a low-rise, low cost housing project, first to enhance sustainability in South Africa and addressing the poorest, and asked for minimum 1200 units, each one comprising of a main house and two ‘back rooms’ for rental accommodation, as income to the owner.
Typology design forms an integral part of the urban design solution as units are clustered around small courtyards of 6 to 10 homes. Courtyards can be gated, providing defensible spaces.
In the conventional approach in Alexandra, rental rooms are located in the ‘backyard’ and cut off from the street.
Here they form part of the communal courtyard with separate entrance from the main unit, thus providing privacy.
To achieve the necessary density, we considered small stands with a small footprint house.
The L shaped typical unit comprises of a double storey 40sqm home with additional 2 room unit for rental at ground floor. This configuration could serve later as expansion of the home.
A high density of 123units/ha is thus achieved within a low rise development.
The main challenges included anonymity and a lack of community cohesion. Through a congruous design solution, owners and tenants form equally part of the community, achieving integration and developing neighbourhoods.
In order to mitigate the steep site the courtyards’ platforms step side by side across the slope, with their common walls serving also as retaining walls.
This low cost urban design solution provides minimum road infrastructure. Materials used are basic bagged-washed concrete bricks and mortar. The use of earthy colours renders the development more pleasant.
Although modest, this is a landmark development for Alexandra, both from a social and sustainability perspective.