The Beginning of the End

Heather Dodd and Colin Savage work outside the glare of publicity, putting low-income housing theory into practice. Dodd is a product of UCT under Ivor Prinsloo. In fact her Master's thesis was base on insider knowledge of the Prinsloo group's work at Rand Mines Properties at the beginning of the 1970s - not an uncritical work but a valuable case-study of theory and practice out of joint.

Like Jo Noero, Savage had worked at BDG (Building Design Group, Durban) - a practice that produced modern collaborative architecture with a regional flavour - before the term Critical Regionalism was invented. Their's was an intuitive, non-intellectual design process according to Paul Sanders, the group historian.

Dodd and Savage's Albert Street housing (2000-2002), on the eastern edge of the inner city, is the fourth in the sequence of social housing developments commissioned by the Johannesburg Housing Company (JHC), a low-key, private, non-governmental housing organization which specialises in the creation of subsidised inner-city, or near central city, rental stock.

JHC's project at Tribunal Gardens, Fordsburg (2001) designed by the young architect Anca Szalavicz, basically comprises 3-storey walk-up blocks, with occassional 4th level attic rooms. There are projecting sun-balconies, facebrick walling with upper storey plaster finish and highlighted upper storey windows - all part of a breaking up of uniformity. The romantic play of tiled roofscape without gutters is characteristic of the intricate design strategy. The architect's intensions, working through a Continental urban sensibility, are clearly indicated in her working Streetscape Elevation, which shows the visual interest and intricacy of a Hanseatic market town. Modern comparisons are found in the asymetrical housing of the Italian architect Giancarlo de Carlo and of the Indian architect Charles Correa.

Please note that this article has been taken from Johannesburg Transition - Architecture & Society from 1950 written and © by Clive M Chipkin.