CS Studio Architects
Carin Smuts started working with impoverished marginalised communities since 1982 when 8 migrant workers from Lingelihle, Cradock, Eastern Cape South Africa approached The University of Cape Town School of Architecture for assistance to obtain land and build a skills training workshop. Carin at the same time, a third year architectural student took up the task. This was at the height of Apartheid and many challenges had to be faced. The state of emergency made meetings and planning building projects an illegal activity and yet the planning and building went on. In 1989 with Urs Schmid CS Studio Architects were established. For 30 years the practice has produced hundreds of public buildings in disadvantaged contexts both urban and rural. These are located all over South Africa and one building is in Namibia. The main focus is to create better urban space. Most of the black and coloured townships of South Africa consisted only of hostels, housing and informal structures. The public realm and urban spaces was severely lacking. The public spaces were the churches, mosques, temples and some small shops, with most of the beer halls being burnt out or standing empty. The creation of good urban spaces therefore became very important in these communities. The way Carin Smuts works is through participation and collaboration. The process starts as a consultative process involving many stakeholders. Many months go by where a clear understanding of the future users' needs are explored in a number of participatory workshops. The process can also include theatre, poetry sessions, counselling etc... whatever the project dictates. Design workshops produce drawings and models and give the future user a chance to give meaningful input. During construction local contractors, sub-contractors and artists are involved on the building site. Many local economic opportunities are created. Locally available materials are used. When there are existing structures material is recycled and re-used. Buildings are simple boxes juxtaposed to create more complex solutions. Outside in-between spaces become as important as the enclosed indoor spaces. The buildings are multi-functional and all share the same characteristics as they are a product of the people who designed them through an interactive process.