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Community and its influence on architecture: a proposed agriculture facility in Mariannhill, Kwazulu-Natal.

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South Africa's political legacy of Apartheid has left the majority of its population living in urban and peri - urban communities characterized by extremely poor environmental conditions. Lack of infrastructure and resources as well as basic needs like food, water and shelter have left these communities destitute. As a survival response these communities engage in subsistence farming - with formal and informal production - as their primary source of income which is a skill that has been passed on for generations. However, these subsistence farmers are often afflicted by various social ills, which include poverty, hunger and poor remuneration (Mudhara 2010) Starting from these assumptions, this dissertation focusses on research surrounding subsistence farming communities and their potential influence on architecture and vice versa in order to provide a design proposal for an integrated agricultural support and training facility for small and medium scale farmers within the peri-urban context of Mariannhill. This facility would provide a platform for farmers to gain access to greater opportunity and simultaneously provide support, training and skills development in order to aid in community empowerment. Research into peri-urban agriculture as a driver for community empowerment will aim to provide greater opportunities, establish household food security and be a means of inserting informal farm production into the formal market through the built environment. Peri - urban agriculture therefore provides many opportunities for community development and empowerment by contributing towards increasing household food security and reducing vulnerability by providing a direct or indirect income source. The activity of farming together as a community increases community resilience and becomes a driver for social development (Smith et al. 2005) . The literature being analysed explores content that would provide a platform for enquiry towards ‘architecture for community’ through a conceptual and theoretical framework. The principles are developed through the exploration of community and its construct and Roger Trancik’s (1986) approaches to ‘urban spatial design’ through figure ground theory, place theory and linkage theory. Sub concepts being explored include cultural connection to place as well as ‘New Ruralism’ (Viviers et al. 2017), empowerment and regenerative architecture in order to provide a holistic design solution towards community empowerment. These concepts and theories are studied in order to gain a greater understanding of community, its relationship to its context and to gain insight towards community empowerment through an architectural perspective. The research method includes primary data collection consisting of interviews conducted with subsistence farmers by means of a questionnaire and informal conversations. The three parameters under investigation are access to markets, access to information and access to technology. Data was collected, analysed and discussed. This helped develop the guiding concept of ‘community support’ which ultimately informed the spatial construct of the proposed agricultural facility. The study concludes with recommendations for ‘architecture for community’ as a proposed agricultural facility for the subsistence farming communities of Mariannhill.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.