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Design strategy collective Urban-Think Tank has designed and built a prototypical house as part of an initiative to improve housing conditions for slum dwellers in some of the 2,700 informal settlements across South Africa (+ movie).

Urban-Think Tank, which was involved in the Golden Lion-winning research into the Torre David vertical slum in Caracas, has this time teamed up with ETH Zürich university to search for ways that architects can help improve the environment and security of these slums that house approximately 15 percent of the country's entire population.

Working under the title Empower Shack, the team organised a design-and-build workshop in Khayelitsha, a township in Cape Town that is one of the largest in South Africa, and developed a design for a low-cost two-storey shack for local resident Phumezo Tsibanto and his family.

They then worked together to replace Tsibanto's existing single-storey dwelling with the new two-storey structure, giving the family a new home with a watertight exterior and its own electricity.

The designers are now exploring different configurations of the prototype that will allow it to adapt to the needs of different residents, extending up to three-storeys when necessary.

This in turn becomes part of a wider strategy for the rationalising the layout of the entire community, known as blocking out. This involves creating access routes for emergency vehicles and providing basic services such as sanitation and water.

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