Vocational Training Centers in the South African Informal Settlements

South Africa faces many challenges. Currently millions of South Africans live in poverty in the informal settlements and many are poorly educated. They have little chance to improve their lives because of isolation and a lack of skills. A solution could be the approach; “Help the people to help themselves”.


The lack of skills and education in the informal settlements could be addressed with community based vocational training centers, i.e. centers that provide locally needed basic skill training. Developed by the local community and facilitated by overarching organizations such as the government. The construction of the center is a first skill training and will be a spin off for the development of the settlement. This can be done all over South Africa, slowly improving the social economic circumstances.


To do this all over South Africa and to gain insight in how to facilitate from the top-down and bottom-up it is necessary to understand what the role of vocation training centers can be and how they can deal with topics such as public space, crime, sustainability and local building materials. By designing 3 centers in different informal settlements, it is possible to gain insight into the generic design within.

This approach has led to a generic design method combined with a set of prefab elements, answering to the needs of the overarching organizations to facilitate the development of vocational training centers. The three different studies have shown how this could lead to locally specific designs, taking in a public function in the settlement and how they can use local materials to build the center.  The vocational training center designed in Enkanini, Cape Town, shows how all the different criteria come together in one design. It shows how the process of architecture can contribute in solving these wicked problems and bridge the gap in South Africa. 

Mentor: Fredrik Groos, 

Committee: Margit Schuster, Alexander Vollebregt, Jeroen Schipper