UN-BUILT PROJECTS

Below is a brief excerpt from each of the projects in this category. Click on the links or image to see the full project panel details and illustrations.

Diepsloot – Housing & The Informal City

Exhibitor: 26’10 South Architects and Lone Poulsen

In this research inquiry, Diepsloot’s Reception Area has been used as a basis against which to ‘test’ existing formal housing typologies and to develop alternative strategies which respond to and learn from the dynamics of the Informal City. Diepsloot is a predominantly informal settlement located 40km north of Johannesburg’s city centre. As a post-apartheid township it acutely represents the challenges facing the South African state on matters of housing, service delivery and effective local governance. Based on detailed mappings of Reception Area produced by 26’10 south Architects, a master class involving various architects and housing specialists was held exploring the complex relationship between housing density, occupation density, built form and customisations such as rental rooms, small businesses and the delineation of communal and public spaces.

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Diepsloot - Diep Soak & Curl

Exhibitor: 26’10 South Architects

This competition entry suggests an alternative approach to the provision of services in the upgrading of informal settlements. Whilst formal upgrading approaches concerned with defining ownership, security of tenure and eventually housing delivery are long and arduous processes, something can be done in the interim to improve inhabitants’ quality of life as well as stimulate the local economy through the provision of basic services. In fact, the failure of services that plagues informal settlements presents obvious opportunities for employment and development. Phase 2 of the Expanded Public Works Community Programme even makes provision for this.

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Informal Studio - Ruimsig

Exhibitor: 26’10 South Architects in partnership with the Goethe-Institut SA, the University of Johannesburg and Prof. Lone Poulsen

The INFORMAL STUDIO: R U I M S I G has been carried out in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and the University of Johannesburg as an in-situ course on informal settlement upgrading. Sixteen masters students, together with residents of Ruimsig (an informal settlement on the western periphery of Johannesburg), have produced a detailed mapping and re-blocking study. The course was run partially from a studio within the settlement were students and teachers worked with local community architects in a process guided by NGOs and grass-roots organisations. This in-situ interaction formed a vital component linking theory and practice, ‘clients’ (residents), and service providers (students and teachers).

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Sans Souci Cinema

Exhibitor: 26’10 South Architects, Lindsay Bremner

In the absence of a budget and local capacity to re-build the famous Sans Souci Cinema in Soweto, Johannesburg, the content rather than the container was realised. Through harnessing informal networks and local talent, the dramatic ruin of an old cinema formed the armature for a series of cultural events in one of Johannesburg’s poorest communities. The project set out to demonstrate that cultural production need not be limited to formal institutions and that relevant, rich and hybrid cultural identities and practices emerge from the perceived margins and interstices of the city.

READ MORE...

Subsidised Housing Assets

Exhibitor: Finmark Trust

South Africa’s national housing subsidy programme, which was introduced with the advent of the first democratically elected government in 1994, has been lauded internationally as a highly significant and ultimately successful housing intervention. The programme provides qualifying beneficiaries (households who earn a monthly income of less than R3500 per month and satisfy other criteria) with freehold tenure over a 40m2 house on a 250m2 plot of serviced land. It is highly likely that the significant increase in the number of South African households living in formal dwellings between 1996 and 2007 – from 64.4% to over 70% - is primarily as a result of this national subsidy programme. The National Department of Human Settlements reports that between 1994 and 2009, a total of 2.94 million subsidy houses were either delivered or still under construction. Of these, 1.44 million (51%) have been formally registered in the Deeds Registry. These registered subsidy houses comprise just under one quarter (24%) of all registered residential properties in South Africa – clearly a significant proportion of South Africa’s property market.

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Diepsloot - Diep Soak & Curl


INFORMAL CITY: DIEPSLOOT

Diepsloot Reception Area, Johannesburg, 2009

First Fix - Autodesk Open Think Box Competition 2009 - Winner of Professional Category
26’10 Team: Thorsten Deckler & Anne Graupner (principals), Tahira Toffah, Guy Trangoš, Shameemah Davids

This competition entry suggests an alternative approach to the provision of services in the upgrading of informal settlements. Whilst formal upgrading approaches concerned with defining ownership, security of tenure and eventually housing delivery are long and arduous processes, something can be done in the interim to improve inhabitants’ quality of life as well as stimulate the local economy through the provision of basic services. In fact, the failure of services that plagues informal settlements presents obvious opportunities for employment and development. Phase 2 of the Expanded Public Works Community Programme even makes provision for this.

In Diepsloot’s Reception Area, the failing sanitation system comprising communal toilets and water points results in 7.2 km of daylight sewage affecting the health of its approximate 25 000 inhabitants. The state is in the process of upgrading (reinstating) this failing system without addressing any of the factors which have contributed to its failure in the first place. This scenario forms the basis for a ‘First Fix’ strategy developed for the competition.

When considering growth over time (in the form of self-constructed rental rooms or backyard shacks), the RDP type in fact performs as well as the much touted row-house and delivers densities approximating those of Reception Area. However, the siting of the RDP house in the middle of its plot results in poor in-between spaces when rental rooms are added over time.

Simultaneously, the existing settlement infrastructure and social amenities are often overburdened by the increased occupation. Interestingly, Chitungwiza on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe presents an effective alternative in which two freestanding houses are joined along a shared boundary leaving enough space for rental rooms to define a quality semi-private communal space. The row-house type, promoted as the alternative to the free-standing RDP, starts out with higher initial densities, but has limited growth potential over time due to the inconvenience of tenants passing through the main house to access their accommodation. Units with passages on one side or access lanes at the back of stands may alleviate this to a degree. Whilst BNG (‘Breaking New Ground’) principles have been developed to render houses ‘safe’ as collateral for bank loans, current densities are not particularly efficient in the use of land and infrastructure. The banks furthermore frown upon self-constructed additions.

Due to Reception Area’s complex and dense urban fabric, the strategy is realized in three scales: an existing toilet upgrade, a medium-sized toilet and shower facility, and a large service centre with toilets, comfortable bathrooms, laundry and community services.

The large units are arranged around semi-private courtyards. Besides regular bathrooms, they contain retail spaces which could be used by a hairdresser, internet cafe, laundry, tuck-shop, crèche, gym, etc. The two roof terraces can be used for drying clothes and by the gym as outdoor exercising spaces respectively.

Through incorporating lessons learnt from the dynamic urban and architectural character of the Reception Area, the facilities are cross-programmed to offer multiple services and income streams. All typologies would provide business opportunities for local caretakers and operators.

An environmentally sustainable approach is advocated in that the medium and large units employ a biogas digester, which will assist with the revival of river ecologies and improvement of water quality. Most large units are thus located near the river edge and can promote the revitalizing of this space as natural amenity. Methane, another by-product, can be used as fuel for public lighting and heating. Hot water can be sold for nominally less than what it costs to heat it with traditional fuels.

This proposal posits the notion that just as a multitude of services are offered in the informal city, so public infrastructure can become a service offered to residents. This requires a lateral shift in thinking beyond the confines of specialised civil engineering and back into time, when the early industrialising cities’ bathhouses and serviced rooms in boarding houses catered to the needs of its migrant and temporary workforces attracted to jobs and opportunities. Providing dignified amenities in informal settlements hitherto suspended in an illegal, temporary limbo may be the first step in the slow process of formalising the many informal cities as legitimate parts of the city. As such, this project conceptually outlines an unexplored role for professionals of the built environment to work more creatively in multidisciplinary developmental teams considering some of the more pressing needs of a rapidly urbanizing society through embracing, rather than eschewing complexity.

26’10 SOUTH ARCHITECTS

Diepsloot - Housing & the Informal City


HOUSING & THE INFORMAL CITY RESEARCH PROJECT

Diepsloot Reception Area Johannesburg, 2008

Project partner: Goethe-Institut, Johannesburg
Collaborator: Prof. Lone Poulsen
26’10 Team: Thorsten Deckler & Anne Graupner (principals), Tahira Toffah, Guy Trangoš, Shameemah Davids, Claire Lubelll

In this research inquiry, Diepsloot’s Reception Area has been used as a basis against which to ‘test’ existing formal housing typologies and to develop alternative strategies which respond to and learn from the dynamics of the Informal City. Diepsloot is a predominantly informal settlement located 40km north of Johannesburg’s city centre. As a post-apartheid township it acutely represents the challenges facing the South African state on matters of housing, service delivery and effective local governance. Based on detailed mappings of Reception Area produced by 26’10 south Architects, a master class involving various architects and housing specialists was held exploring the complex relationship between housing density, occupation density, built form and customisations such as rental rooms, small businesses and the delineation of communal and public spaces.

In South Africa, density is generally accepted to be low at less than 40 units/ha, medium at between 40 and 100 units/ha and high at more than 100 units/ha. Reception Area’s existing density at 300 units/ha (predominantly one storey), its quality of spaces and diversity of functions point to the potential for low rise, high-density solutions which may be freehold and offer opportunities for sub-letting and small scale enterprise. A one hectare piece of land situated along a busy street of Reception Area was used to compare different formal housing approaches measured in terms of the displacement or additional accommodation each settlement type achieves.

When considering growth over time (in the form of self-constructed rental rooms or backyard shacks), the RDP type in fact performs as well as the much touted row-house and delivers densities approximating those of Reception Area. However, the siting of the RDP house in the middle of its plot results in poor in-between spaces when rental rooms are added over time.

Simultaneously, the existing settlement infrastructure and social amenities are often overburdened by the increased occupation. Interestingly, Chitungwiza on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe presents an effective alternative in which two freestanding houses are joined along a shared boundary leaving enough space for rental rooms to define a quality semi-private communal space. The row-house type, promoted as the alternative to the free-standing RDP, starts out with higher initial densities, but has limited growth potential over time due to the inconvenience of tenants passing through the main house to access their accommodation. Units with passages on one side or access lanes at the back of stands may alleviate this to a degree. Whilst BNG (‘Breaking New Ground’) principles have been developed to render houses ‘safe’ as collateral for bank loans, current densities are not particularly efficient in the use of land and infrastructure. The banks furthermore frown upon self-constructed additions.

The housing types proposed during the master class for the Diepsloot context attempt to achieve a much higher stand and occupational density from the outset in order to achieve the minimum displacement of existing residents. In addition, the housing types enable eligible beneficiaries to become small scale landlords who rent habitable rooms to non-eligible residents. The flexible design of the proposed housing types therefore incorporates future growth for income generation through accommodating rental rooms, retail and small business enterprise. The unit types are located close to the street boundary to create a sense of urbanity, natural surveillance, ease of trading and to limit the amount of unusable space between units. Micro-loans, in addition to a basic starter unit (funded by means of the subsidy), can assist owners to construct quality rental rooms as per various pre-defined options. Part of the resultant rental income would go towards repaying the loan. Both the Vertical Yard type and the 14x7m Row House type offer two approaches to achieving high density and growth over time.

Both unit types move away from the ‘shrunken mansion’ syndrome satisfying a perceived aspiration towards a dynamic flexibility which can deliver subsidised housing in which the unit becomes an asset for income generation. Whilst the proposed starter types are bigger than the standard RDP type, they can, through savings made (due to higher density), on land cost, infrastructure and service provision, be imminently achievable. In addition, the availability of micro loans should offer even further choice to beneficiaries to customise their dwellings to suit their specific needs. The increased densities also achieve the necessary thresholds for the efficient provision of public transport and economic opportunities.

WEBSITE: http://www.housinginformalcity.co.za

26’10 SOUTH ARCHITECTS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GOETHE-INSTITUT SA AND PROF. LONE POULSEN

Informal Studio: Ruimsig


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INFORMAL STUDIO: RUIMSIG

Ruimsig Johanneburg, 2011

Project Partners: 26’10 South Architects, Goethe-Institut Johannesburg and the University of Johannesburg
Lecturers: Thorsten Deckler, Prof. Lone Poulsen, Alexander Opper (UJ), Melinda Silverman (UJ)

The INFORMAL STUDIO: R U I M S I G has been carried out in partnership with the Goethe-Institut and the University of Johannesburg as an in-situ course on informal settlement upgrading. Sixteen masters students, together with residents of Ruimsig (an informal settlement on the western periphery of Johannesburg), have produced a detailed mapping and re-blocking study. The course was run partially from a studio within the settlement were students and teachers worked with local community architects in a process guided by NGOs and grass-roots organisations. This in-situ interaction formed a vital component linking theory and practice, ‘clients’ (residents), and service providers (students and teachers). The collaborative output of the studio is the first version of a reblocking map showing how minimal shifts and adjustments in what is ostensibly a ‘temporary’ urban condition and fabric can lead to a more equitable distribution of space, the undoing of exploitative rental conditions, the creation of legal road reserve widths (for more effective circulation including emergency services) and future provision of sanitation, water and electricity supply. In addition, the re-blocking facilitates the process of awarding tenure and can ‘bracket’ space for future social amenities. Working with the ISN (Informal Settlement Network) has made possible a meaningful engagement in a people’s process for change and points to new ways of practice for architects and more fundamentally a shift away from the obsession with the single formal house constructed (at great expense) for and not by people.

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Questions the studio raised revolved around the ‘perceived’ backlog of 2.5 million formal houses. To students it became clear that the informal city in this case does what the formal system cannot: it provides affordable shelter and a foothold closer to opportunities of employment and advancement. The informal city, constructed by inhabitants themselves with little input from the state or professionals, offers flexible and affordable access to shelter.

In some instances, it displays spatial and programmatic richness sorely lacking from the housing landscapes constructed by teams of professionals. Yet the lack of services, security of tenure, repeated threats of ‘eradication’ and the promise of eventual housing delivery have locked the informal city into an illegal limbo in which mounting tension and frustration are becoming increasingly evident.

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Encouragingly, but not surprising, the state’s previous ambition to eradicate informal settlements by 2014 has been redefi ned and refocused (courtesy of the National Delivery Agreement targets) to the upgrading of 400 000 units in well-located informal settlements by 2014. To this effect the National Upgrade Support Programme (NUSP) has been established to assist the state and communities in realising this target. For South Africa this demands a major shift in thinking about housing and how it has been delivered in the past. It acknowledges the efforts people have made in building their own homes and communities. No matter how defi cient, tenuous or exploitative the informal city may be – it directly mirrors the ever increasing backlog in formal housing. Considering that just about 60% of all urban inhabitants in Africa live in informal conditions, it is time for a mode of professional practice which embraces housing as a process rather than a product. The INFORMAL STUDIO: R U I M S I G thus positions itself to educate professionals in becoming skilled in engaging with a process of housing that is not about houses as finished, professionally executed products but about a people-driven process towards improved living environments.

26’10 SOUTH ARCHITECTS IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE GOETHE-INSTITUT SA,
THE UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG AND PROF. LONE POULSEN

Sans Souci Cinema

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SANS SOUCI CINEMA PROJECT

Kliptown Soweto, 2003-2008

Collaborator: Lindsay Bremner
26’10 Team: Anne Graupner, Thorsten Deckler, Gavin Armstrong, Kiran Paras, Nicola Wessels, Rogan Rich, Robert Rich, Sue Groenewald
Client: Kliptown Our Town Trust

In the absence of a budget and local capacity to re-build the famous Sans Souci Cinema in Soweto, Johannesburg, the content rather than the container was realised. Through harnessing informal networks and local talent, the dramatic ruin of an old cinema formed the armature for a series of cultural events in one of Johannesburg’s poorest communities. The project set out to demonstrate that cultural production need not be limited to formal institutions and that relevant, rich and hybrid cultural identities and practices emerge from the perceived margins and interstices of the city.

Kliptown, a historic, but dilapidated township on the edge of Soweto, is the site of this project to rebuild the Sans Souci, a community cinema and theatre that burnt down in 1994. The Sans Souci, which translates literally to ‘without a care’ from the French, was established in 1948 in a building that had previously been a dance hall and a stable. It hosted many of South Africa’s eminent performers, including Miriam Makeba, Kippie Moketzi and Abdullah Ibrahim and was one of the few cinemas where black Africans could view films during the apartheid period. After falling into disrepair in the early 1990’s, it was scavenged and disassembled by squatters looking for materials for housing.

- click images to see larger version -

The redevelopment of the cinema as a public, cultural and performance venue was one of the projects in a wider renewal of Kliptown as an ‘Eco Museum’ - a radical re-thinking of the traditional western museum concept in which interaction between visitors and the local community is maximised. In conceptualising the cinema, we realised that the ‘idea’ of the cinema needed to be given new meaning over time through events and incremental architectural interventions involving local people and visitors. This would be followed by a phased building process as funding became available and the community’s capacity to manage the project developed.

The project was driven by the Kliptown Our Town Trust, a community development organisation of Kliptown
residents and the Vuyani Dance Theatre Company. In Phase 1 of the project, fi lm screenings, fi lm and dance festivals, audience development, dance training and fi lm production allowed residents and visitors to actively participate in excavating and remembering the history of Kliptown and the Sans Souci and constructing its future.

We engaged in this process both as facilitators and as designers. We feel that direct social engagement by professionals has great relevance to the creation of urbanity in conditions of scarce resources. Top down planning has often resulted in obsolete cultural institutions and unused buildings, while viable, small scale cultural organisations struggle to survive. In our view, consolidating and developing creative social networks and practices in public space is as important as building buildings.

The notion of public space in Johannesburg, as in many other cities, is becoming increasingly franchised and controlled on the one hand and neglected on the other. This abandonment of public space offered us ground to experiment. By harnessing the directness and immediacy of grassroots cultural networks into the design and implementation of an architectural project, we found new ways to make positive and interactive public spaces. In so doing we were able to set the conceptual foundation for the growth of the Sans Souci into a new institution.

This approach may ultimately lead to a lighter, more flexible and responsive form of urbanism which accommodates local desires, narratives and initiatives. Rather than abandoning our clients in the light of limited budgets we have pooled human resources through combined networks in order to realise our mandate of creating a public space for cultural programme.

26’10 SOUTH ARCHITECTS WITH LINDSAY BREMNER

Subsidised Housing Assets

SUBSIDISED HOUSING ASSETS

Exploring the Performance of Government Subsidised Housing in South Africa

Finmark Trust

South Africa’s national housing subsidy programme, which was introduced with the advent of the first democratically elected government in 1994, has been lauded internationally as a highly significant and ultimately successful housing intervention. The programme provides qualifying beneficiaries (households who earn a monthly income of less than R3500 per month and satisfy other criteria) with freehold tenure over a 40m2 house on a 250m2 plot of serviced land. It is highly likely that the significant increase in the number of South African households living in formal dwellings between 1996 and 2007 – from 64.4% to over 70% - is primarily as a result of this national subsidy programme. The National Department of Human Settlements reports that between 1994 and 2009, a total of 2.94 million subsidy houses were either delivered or still under construction. Of these, 1.44 million (51%) have been formally registered in the Deeds Registry. These registered subsidy houses comprise just under one quarter (24%) of all registered residential properties in South Africa – clearly a significant proportion of South Africa’s property market.

In 2010, the FinMark Trust, with support from Urban LandMark, the National Department of Human Settlements, the South African Cities Network, the Western Cape Department of Human Settlements and the FB Heron Foundation, undertook a study into the performance of government subsidised housing units. The study involved an analysis of how subsidised properties were trading formally, on the deeds registry, and then a series of household interviews with a small sample of respondents from three settlements. As a first step, the study fed the database of all subsidy applicants who had been approved for a subsidy between 1994 and September 2010 into the Deeds Registry. By matching applicants with properties, a total of 1,7m subsidy applicants were identified as the property owners of 1,44 million properties. Half of these properties (49%) were found to be located in the eight metropolitan cities, with Ekurhuleni (141,104 properties), Cape Town (130,300) and the City of Johannesburg (130,121) having the highest number of registered subsidy houses. The highest number of registrations across the provinces was found in Gauteng (395,765), the Eastern Cape (238,682) and the Western Cape (208,852).

Invisible Informality

Assuming that all the 2.94 million houses had been developed by September 2010, this implies that almost one and a half million subsidy beneficiaries had received a subsidy house without the registration of formal title. This creates a sort of ‘invisible’ informality: households who have received a formal housing unit, but who have not yet received a title deed. While they may feel themselves as owners, their legal status is informal.

From 2005 there has been a consistent decrease in the percentage of subsidy houses that are being registered and this trend is continuing. The removal of the requirement that registration is required before the release of a significant portion of the subsidy payments in April 2004 appears to be a key contributor to this trend.

The obvious value of a title deed is that it protects rights to a property and records changes in ownership. Title deeds also provide individuals with an address, recognising the owner as being part of the municipality, and enabling the owner to secure loans. The house can then be inherited – this is an especially important aspect of the house as described by respondents. The failure to provide Title Deeds to subsidy beneficiaries means that they are being denied a critical (and promised) point of entry into the formal property market.

Also, not having a registered title means that beneficiaries are not able to sell their houses formally, using the
Deeds Registry system (which requires the seller to have a Title Deed). As a result informal transactions are
occurring, creating a second generation of invisible informality. These transactions undermine individual property owners’ security and more generally the integrity of the Deeds Registry system in South Africa.


Continued on Panel 2

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FINMARK TRUST

Subsidised Housing Assets (Panel 2)

SUBSIDISED HOUSING ASSETS (panel 2)

Exploring the Performance of Government Subsidised Housing in South Africa

Finmark Trust

Why is there a delay in titling?

Research commissioned by Urban LandMark points to several factors that undermine the transfer of title to subsidy beneficiaries.

  • Delays in the township establishment process and proclamation
  • Revisions to the project payment process in the development of subsidy houses
  • Failure to hand over title deeds
  • Appropriateness of the deeds registration system

The major cause is a failure by developers (both government and the private sector) to finalise the establishment and proclamation of new areas being developed for subsidised housing. Projects go ahead without the approval of a General Plan for the area, largely because the players involved, lack either the time or expertise (or both) to address the many underlying issues that need to be resolved on certain tracts of land. Legislative, administrative and situational difficulties all contribute to the challenges. With the immense pressure on government officials to deliver housing at scale, the processes of township proclamation are sometimes short-circuited in favour of getting houses on the ground quickly.


In part because of these challenges, the project payment process for subsidy housing was revised, ironically creating another factor undermining the legal transfer process. Originally, the registration of the title deed in the name of the beneficiary was a key milestone against which a developer would have to perform in order to get paid. This meant that in the more complex developments, time delays associated with the registration process undermined the viability of the development. In 2003, therefore, the progress payment system was changed to allow for payment of the completed top structure before the registration of transfer. This means that developers can now be fully paid out without having to ensure that the title for the property is put into the name of the beneficiary. As a result, the registration of deeds for subsidy properties has progressively declined since 2003. In 2009, less than a quarter (23.4%) of all subsidised properties reported as having been delivered were formally registered in the deeds registry. And this was an improvement on the low of 16.4% registered in 2007.

In some cases, while the property has been registered, the title deed has not been handed over to the beneficiary. The Department of Human Settlements has reported on this phenomenon to Parliament, indicating that many beneficiaries have still not collected their title deeds after they have been processed (and after having resided in the premises for several years). In other cases, title deeds have been held back by the conveyancer due to non-payment of fees by the project owner – usually the province or municipality or their appointed contractor.

Of course these issues, and the experiences they describe, raise the question of the appropriateness of the deeds registry system, specifically with regard to subsidised properties. Some experts have suggested that while the residential property conveyancing system in South Africa is thorough and legally sound, it is far too complex for small transactions. The conveyancing process is also relatively expensive in the subsidised housing market (given the value of the transactions involved), and generally inaccessible to low income earners wishing to engage in what is sometimes their first-ever property transaction. When the state fails to assert the formality of their tenure through the delivery of a title deed, the inflexibility of the deeds registry system challenges even further their capacity to overcome their invisible informality.

“We have a first-world deeds system in a developing-world spatial context. We need to question the very necessity of title deeds”. Former Land Title Adjustment Commissioner.

The phenomenon of informal sales does not only occur in respect of beneficiaries who do not have title deeds, but also in respect of those who received title deeds. Even if the owner has a title deed, the process of formal transfer is complicated, can take between three and six months and the costs involved can be prohibitive for the “purchaser”. For these reasons individuals bypass the formal sales process – living informally in formal housing.

This approach may ultimately lead to a lighter, more flexible and responsive form of urbanism which accommodates local desires, narratives and initiatives. Rather than abandoning our clients in the light of limited budgets we have pooled human resources through combined networks in order to realise our mandate of creating a public space for cultural programme.

Back to Panel 1

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FINMARK TRUST