This project is focused on COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT IN DESIGN PROCESSES IN INNER CITY AREAS to support the inhabitants who occupy existing buildings. Our case study is the occupied building 10 Berea Road (Josanna Court), Bertrams, Johannesburg. The project considers the future potential of occupied buildings in the inner city and the conversion of existing buildings into residential functions. The potential impact of this research project is to unlock a greater understanding of affordable inner-city housing, poverty alleviation and the creation of sustainable cities and communities. It will allow for a more in-depth understanding of the demographics and experiences of the residents of the inner city and advancing knowledge with respect to squatting, invaded/occupied buildings and effecting change in the inner city through participatory design tools. The project relates to the Johannesburg’s so-called Bad Buildings Programme. The project aims to understand the coping mechanisms and survival strategies of inner city residents as well as exploring how to unlock processes that allow for access to adequate affordable housing in the inner city. It also explores alternative building techniques and alternative funding models.

This project also sets out to investigate whether informally-occupied inner-city buildings in Johannesburg can become catalysts for inclusive housing, thus supporting Inclusive Housing Policy.

As is well-known and documented, Apartheid planning created racial and class segregation which has had profound and lasting impact on the spatial configuration of the country and its cities. Much has been written about how to dismantle the spatial legacies of Apartheid, perhaps the most important being Chapter 8 of the National Development Plan, however, very little change has happened at settlement and city planning level.

On the 21st February 2019, the City of Johannesburg council approved inclusionary housing incentives, regulations and mechanisms; this policy is aimed to achieve a mix of income levels within all residential developments, however, there are very few examples in Johannesburg where formal mixed income housing has been successfully implemented. Perhaps existing neighbourhoods as well as informal housing in the inner city could provide clues as to how this elusive integration may be achieved? In addition to the creation of new neighbourhoods (or even new cities as implied in the president’s recent State of the Nation Address), could we perhaps consider interventions in existing neighbourhoods to achieve the aims of the policy?

The study is premised on the belief that smaller scale, acupunctural, project interventions, densification strategies, functional and typological mix, in existing neighbourhoods, as opposed to larger-scale new projects can contribute to the creation of more sustainable communities. This is in direct opposition to the drive for “mega-projects”.

The project leader is Prof Amira Osman of TUT Architecture, supported by Ms. Afua Wilcox who is currently a PhD candidate at Delft University of Technology and Ms. Suzette van der Walt of 1 to 1 Agency of Engagement and several student assistants from both TUT and UJ CARINBE. The UJ CARINBE team is also supported by the researchers Solomon under the supervision of Professor Steven Ekolu.

Our partners for this project are: The Inner City Resource Centre (ICRC), Plan Act, 1 to 1 Agency of Engagement, the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI) as well as the City of Johannesburg.


On the 25th June 2019 the City of Johannesburg posted a notification that a demolition would take place on the Bertrams priority block. This created great insecurity and panic for all community members. A picket  “WE WONT MOVE”  was organized a week later in the Johannesburg CBD by the residents and ICRC in order to explain to the city that building work in the priority block should not take place without discussing and engaging the residents with information related to future developments.

Since then, the City of Johannesburg has come on board with ICRC to make sure any future developments will be discussed and work shopped with residents. We have assisted ICRC and 1 to 1 in draughting a document to advise COJ on some of the engagement processes that should take place prior to any renovations.

On the 19th July 2019 the Community Engagement team from TUT Architecture and CARINBE UJ came together to discuss the Action plan for the concrete slab in Bertrams. We critically assessed the structural and design challenges of the building. We discussed various techniques that could be used to fix the slab without displacing any residents from the confines of the block.

Since then we have created an action plan to implement safety building renovations for the Bertrams block. These safety renovations will also assist us in delivering community based sustainable design solutions. They will include a workshop to collaborate with the residents on renovation proceedings and offer training opportunities for residents. Training opportunities are open to all adult residents, male and female. The action plan was delayed due to the negotiation with ICRC and COJ but works should reconvene by mid October 2019.

Click link to view a detailed Organogram explaining the role of stakeholders in NRF Bertrams Community Engagement Project