Over the years, uncontrolled urban sprawl and growth of informal settlements in South Africa have worsened the critical conditions of the townships, contributing to poor infrastructures and sanitation, as well as high levels of unemployment and criminality. Within such context, townships end up being more vulnerable to catastrophic climate-related events, such as floods and water shortage.
This challenging context requires a holistic response able to integrate strategies on multiple levels, among which social regeneration, climate resilience, and equal economic opportunities. Traditional top-down urban planning has proven not to be an effective tool to attenuate social inequality, leaving space to more bottom-up, community-led processes. Following this fundamental assumption, OKRA’s design team has acknowledged school plots in townships as safe islands and potential catalysts for such urban regeneration.
The first test-bed project, Lukhanyo Hub, has been initiated in one of the most problematic townships of Cape Town, Khayelitsha, to transform the unused land of a local secondary school, into a safe hub for the community. Education, professional training, involvement of locals, as well as generation of small-scale economy and job opportunities are the fundamental pillars of this project. Parallel to this, a climate-adaptive strategy, based on low-cost tools and promotion of awareness towards climate-related issues, has been set up to make the hub more self-sustained and, therefore, stable.
The case of Lukhanyo Hub offers opportunities to test and implement a holistic system, combining sustainable water management practices together with urban heat reduction, whilst providing dignified green spaces for learners in an area which typically has been void of any good quality green public space. The Lukhanyo Hub project is meant to be replicable in similar realities and has the long-term ambition to grow into a wider network of safe islands within the townships.