Better Living Challenge



Jun 28, 2017

One of the first BLC 2 activities began recently with a Design/Build Workshop in collaboration with Craft – the thinking hand design/build school. This Design/Build activity is ongoing and the first step, the workshop, engaged participants in a hands-on process of designing and building a small-scale public project for a real client: local non-profit organisation, the Nyanga Arts Development Centre (NADC).


Participants utilised a consensus-driven design/build approach as they explored how architecture (design abilities and knowledge) can serve society and in the process, explore better ways of building. In this process-driven studio experience, participants received the brief, met with the client, conducted a site visit, worked within a budget, proposed and developed a design, scheduled the work, and constructed the project. Sustainable building practices were emphasised throughout the process as second-hand building materials were sourced and used wherever possible.

This Design/Build Workshop was led by a dynamic team of facilitators consisting of Jim Adamson (USA), Janine de Waal, Simone le Grange (Design component) and Konstant de Waal (Build component).


The brief asked for a small, flexible space, approx. 3mx3m, to accommodate a living/sleeping space for a visiting artist in residence at the NADC. The structure was to be built in such a way as to allow it to be moved if necessary, but allow for future extensions/expansions.

The main objectives of the Design/Build Workshop included: the fostering of a collaborative and consensus-driven design experience to teach the value of collaborative thinking and understanding and to learn how knowledge of design skills improves our knowledge of building construction and vice versa; focus on issues of sustainability, accessibility, context, permanence, comfort, beauty, passive design, and design literacy; develop communication skills in different media and situations; to assess the skill levels of participants.


The learnings from this Design/ Build Workshop informed the BLC’s future Skills Development Incubator programme, which will provide aspiring participants with bespoke support (business, entrepreneurial development and enterprise support) as well as inform the creation of toolkits related to better ways of building, emphasizing the role of design.


Participants included:

Mongezi Masinini, Mncedisi Mtwazi, Meshack Gxasheka, Lwazi Sopazi, Luyanda Sovara, Lloyd Pretorius, Mveli Nyitana, Olwethu Dyantjies, Sanele Keswa, Thabang Raba, Thando Klaassen, Thandoxolo Bhayibheli, Trevor Masiy, Zolile Zantsi, Thulani Mgwigwi, John Edwards, Edwin Monyaki, Zihle Matolweni.

The Better Living Challenge (BLC) is a project of the Cape Craft and Design Institute designed to surface local innovative solutions to pressing or persistent socio-economic challenges.

The current iteration, BLC 2, focusing on surfacing solutions to incremental upgrading of informal settlements, is funded by the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements, and the Western Cape Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

Future events will include co-design workshops and hack days, design-build labs and business modelling, entrepreneurial development and enterprise support programmes. Live incubated projects, toolkits, product showcases, real case studies and other outputs will emerge throughout the process, presenting feasible responses to the needs of residents in informal settlements, backyard dwellings and building their own homes on serviced stands. This body of knowledge will be made widely available to anyone involved in the process of upgrading informal housing. The process will culminate in prototyping and testing co-created solutions.