It has taken a full year of reflection and now the launch of the book is near.

UJ_UNIT2 2015: ARCHITECTURE AND AGENCY; DESIGN | MAKE | TRANSFORM; Editor: Amira Osman; ISBN 978-0-620-73562-9; Publisher: Department of Architecture, Faculty of Arts, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg.

UJ_UNIT2 2015 was a one year teaching experiment in the launch year of the UJ UNIT SYSTEM. However, it was also the culmination of 22 years of experimentation in teaching an approach to design that demands consideration of multiple design decision makers, the interface between people and the built environment and the technical implications thereof. In 1992, at the age of 24, I was introduced to John Habraken’s writings at IHS Rotterdam. Over the years, I have met with Habraken several times (I do not say this lightly – Habraken continues to be an inspiration in EVERY aspect of my professional and academic career and is without a doubt my architectural hero!). Most recently, I met Habraken in 2015, in Zurich where I took one of the unit students to the “future of Open Building” conference. In 2016, I returned to Zurich for a meeting of a core team of international representatives in the field of Open Building, with the intention of establishing an international council on Open Building. The core team of 5 people represented Africa, Europe, USA, Latin America and Asia. Our negotiations are still on going.

UJ_UNIT2 2015 was planned as a 2 year masters course. It was therefore an “aborted” experiment – but nevertheless a significant experiment in terms of timing, location and academic context:

  • The timing (at the conclusion of UIA 2014 Durban and with the ETH Zurich conference and debates on the future of OB)
  • The location in Johannesburg (a possible shift of the OB “centre” to the global south)
  • It’s uncomfortable inclusion as part of the then newly launched UNIT SYSTEM AFRICA (perhaps representative of a constant disjuncture between Open Building and mainstream architecture)

These three points are discussed in the opening of the book. Some in depth reflections on the unit system (content and procedure) will be presented – as well as an analysis of the OB teaching experiment, its outcomes and possible future. This is done in the light of current #feesmustfall protests and decolonisation debates, as well as in the light of debates on ethics which have permeated much of our work since the 2015 DEFSA conference.

The book will have course contributions by Stephen Kendall, Jhono Bennett, Tariq Toffa, Phil Astley, Tuliza Sindi and various other partners. The book will be comprised of several sections: 1 IMMERSION; 2 NEGOTIATION, TRANSACTION AND DEAL-MAKING; 3 THE URBAN FIELD; 4 CAPACITOUS TYPOLOGIES

The book will also showcase several components of the course: a Nairobi trip; b Phil Astley Studio Intensive; c Stephan Kendall Studio Intensive; d STAND Workshop; e FADA Joint Community Project; f  DSD DESIS Lab Collaboration; g Representing Complexity – AI + Architecture Collaboration; h ETH Zurich: The Future of Open Building; i DSD DESIS Lab Collaboration; j UIA 2014 Legacy: The Student Charter; k UIA 2014 Legacy: The Built Environment Forum