eNews asked Michael Louw, project leader, architect and lecturer at the University of Cape Town about the Imizamo Yethu Water Platform, a World Design Capital 2014 recognised project improving local access to water.
Q: Tell us about the Imizamo Yethu Water Platforms project. When and how did this project get started?
This project started in 2010 to address access to water services in Capetown’s Imizamo Yethu settlement, where an estimated 9 464 households use shared toilets and taps. According to a survey by the Solid Waste Department of the City of Cape Town in May 2011, Imizamo Yethu is one of the two most poorly serviced settlements in Cape Town. The service ratio is an average of 61.1 households per toilet and a staggering 394.3 households per tap. To help address this lack of services, about 20 second year architecture students from the University of Cape Town, together with a few key staff members, have been designing and building water platforms in Imizamo Yethu during their June vacations over the past five years. It started in consultation with local community members who helped to identify key positions for potential water platforms.
We also work with structural engineers; a number of private sector companies who sponsor materials, and Lalela an art project for local students.
Q: What is a water platform?
The water platforms are essentially robust concrete platforms (either cast in-situ or made up of concrete pavers made by students and community members), which can include seating, washtops, basins, water points, and shading structures. The water platforms are a way of providing additional services, more dignified places for water collection, spaces for the washing of clothes and the integration of these with shared toilet facilities where these are in close proximity. The platforms also serve as social gathering spaces and cleaner areas for children to play. The first four platforms were primarily focused on washing facilities, while this year, a much-needed water point and seating area was provided at the new Imizamo Yethu football field.
Q: What were the benefits of being a World Design Capital 2014 recognised project?
Primarily increased exposure, both online and as part of exhibitions such as the Open Design Week in Cape Town,,which helps us to obtain funding and sponsorships. The platforms are funded entirely by donations from the private sector (and our departmental picnic fund!). This project is at once design-focused and educational, teaching both students and local community members new skills that can potentially help with future employment opportunities.