Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The history of Freedom Park before 10x10

Freedom Park is one of about 200 informal settlements in the Cape Metropolitan Area which house approximately half a million people in more than 100 000 dwellings. This accounts for 16.1% of Cape Town´s population or 60% of the households living without formal shelter.

The site is situated in the township Mitchell’s Plain on the outskirts of the City of Cape Town. Mitchell’s Plain is a typical example of an area that was created in the 1970s to relocate thousands of families from the inner city to racially segregated areas under the Apartheid Group Areas Act. Today Mitchell´s Plain accommodates more than 300 000 people, but it remains a desolate area with high levels of unemployment, poverty and crime. Download a more detailed overview of the area here.

Freedom Park came into existence on 27th April 1998, when a group of people organised an occupation of the land and built themselves shacks on the property. The move was motivated by the need for housing as the conditions in which people had resided were overcrowded, expensive and unsatisfactory for healthy living.

The City of Cape Town took legal action against the community to have them removed from the property. But as the community organized themselves in a democratic structure and arranged legal support, an agreement between the City of Cape Town and the Freedom Park community was reached to resolve the matter out of court. During the ensuing mediation process, the City of Cape Town was required to install emergency services which consisted of pubic standpipes, communal toilets and weekly refuse removal.

In 2003 the City of Cape Town at last included the Freedom Park community in a broader housing development through which 1800 houses were to be built on 4 sites in the Mitchell´s Plain area. 493 of these houses were to be built at the Freedom Park site to accommodate the 280 families residing in the Freedom Park informal settlement, as well as 213 families from the City´s waiting list.

Freedom Park in 2007

In 2007 Design Indaba 10x10 Low Cost Housing Project signed a Memorandum of Agreement to locate the houses to be designed by our participating architects at Freedom Park, after liaising with the Freedom Park Development Association (the civic organisation formed to look after the interests of residents in the area), together with Development Action Group (an NGO specialising in support and implementation of community-centred development) and the Niall Mellon Township Trust (an Irish-owned property development charity organisation working in the area). We were allocated 10 adjacent plots on which the Design Indaba 10x10 houses would be built.

Plots allocated to the Design Indaba 10x10 Low Cost Housing Project

The houses were to be given free by Design Indaba to ten Freedom Park families. it was important to identify who those families were to be in an equitable way. We explained the experimental nature of the project to the community and invited all residents willing and eligible in terms of the City's waiting list for housing to participate in a lucky draw, audited by KPMG. On a cold, wintry Cape morning in mid-June 2007, ten beneficiary names were drawn by members of our team, the Freedom Park community and partners.

The winners of the houses were:
George Jochems
Rebecca Monyatsi
Hans Jonkers
Elizabeth Krigga
Moerida Pillay
Joseph Willoughby
Gavin Arendse
Mary Lackay
Mushrah Anthony
Vida Poovan

Workshopping was done with the beneficiary families to introduce the project and its objectives, and to ascertain their personal wants and needs in terms of design. Reference videos of each family with these details were sent to the architectural teams as part of the brief. Watch the videos here.

Beneficiaries have been involved hands-on in every stage of the building process. The project has provided local people, mostly women, with employment as well as experience in working with a sustainable building system.

The following are some pictures of people from our beneficiary families outside the homes they were staying in before their involvement in the Design Indaba 10x10 Low Cost Housing project.

The Anthony family

The Arendse family

The Jochems family

The Jonkers family (beneficiaries of the first house)

The Krigga family

The Lackey family

The Monyatsi family

The Pillay family

The Poovan family

The Willoughby family

(Photos: Yasser Booley)

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