South Africa—Summer Innovation Labs: Shelter

Examine Cape Town’s built environment, where apartheid’s legacies and inequalities have combined to create housing challenges

offered by SIT Study Abroad

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Please visit our website for more information. Live and study in Cape Town (program base). You and your fellow students will spend the program primarily in Cape Town, living in a township called Langa and the community of Bo Kaap. Primarily isiXhosa-speaking, Langa was one of many areas designated for black South Africans and is one of the oldest townships in the country. Settlements in apartheid South Africa were populated not only according to race but also ethnicity. This was a deliberate policy by the state to control South Africans using the “divide and rule” tactic. The SIT classrooms and office are located in the southern suburb of Rondebosch, also the site of the University of Cape Town. Shelter and its challenges have long been defining characteristics of Cape Town, and the program takes advantage of the multiple resources the city offers. By the mid-twentieth century, the population of Cape Town was approximately half a million. Today there are over 3.7 million residents, many of whom live in informal housing. During much of the second half of the twentieth century, South Africa was subjected to the violence and imposed spatial reorganizations associated with apartheid. Communities were divided by race and ethnicity, involving massive dislocations of people. With apartheid’s end in 1994, South Africa remained a country divided, and the shack-based settlements of its cities expanded to contain job seekers and other migrants leaving rural areas for perceived economic opportunities, as seen in the burgeoning township of Khayelitsha on the Cape Flats. Attempts have been made to build mixed income houses in Langa, and elsewhere, but for a variety of reasons explored on the program, these schemes remain largely vacant. In other parts of the city, including Bo Kaap, recent waves of gentrification challenge close-knit connections and cultural ties, threatening to price long-term residents out of their homes and the city center. Elsewhere in Cape Town, enclaves of stunning homes — architectural showpieces — cling to the sides of Table Mountain and overlook the sea, sheltering their predominantly white residents in luxury, behind an expansive security apparatus. Through monuments, new institutions, and a focus on urban design and architectural innovation, Cape Town has asserted itself as a cultural and artistic center of South Africa and is commonly known as the “Mother City” of the nation. Collaborative Project Working with local community members, urban planners, and architectural practitioners, you and your fellow students will collaborate on a design project focused on an aspect of shelter. The collaborative project — the topic of which emerges from classes, discussions, and educational excursions — is based in Cape Town.


  • Architecture Studies
  • Architecture And Planning
  • Urban And Regional Planning
  • Urban Planning
  • City And Regional Planning
  • Development Studies
  • Sustainable Development
  • Engineering (Civil)
  • Industrial Design


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