School of Architecture students travel to South Africa for summer building project


Lisa Herrmann

Director of Communications

College of Architecture


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Students impact local youth in one of Cape Town’s oldest townships by building a sustainable theater.

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  • Guga S'Thebe Guga S'Thebe

In July, the School of Architecture will be sending a group of 15 undergraduate and graduate architecture students to Cape Town, South Africa, to support the construction of the Guga Children’s Theater, a part of the Guga S’Thebe Cultural Center. The goal of the trip is two-fold – to enhance architecture education through hands-on design-build experience and to teach the importance of sustainability and global social responsibility. The students will implement the designs they developed during their 2013 and 2014 spring architecture design studios in collaboration with the local community and practitioners, skilled craftsmen, and architecture students from three partner universities – Peter Behrens School of Architecture (PBSA) Düsseldorf, RWTH Aachen University, and the University of Cape Town.

Located in the Langa Township outside of Cape Town, the project provides a place for local children and adolescents to discover the power of the arts through dance, music, and performance. With over 300,000 visitors annually, the Guga S’Thebe gladly welcomes this new 6,500 square foot facility to support their mission to teach and transform local youth and adolescents through the cultural arts. The project includes a multi-functional room for dance and music, areas for rehearsals, balconies, recording studio, a combination of small individual rooms for learning in small groups, a large multi-functional room, exterior stage, and a soup kitchen. The architecture promotes an awareness of sustainable solutions to low cost building construction by combining re-used or recycled post consumer industrialized waste materials with traditional earth construction methods.

The architecture students practice a sustainable handling of material, expanding their own knowledge base of material re-use and construction assembly into the community as they guide locals in learning these adapted methods of assembly. The program anticipates that students will return from this experience with a new global awareness of the power of architecture to inspire and improve the human spirit through a sustainable approach.

AIT Magazine has been instrumental in launching, and continuing to raise awareness for, the project thanks to their ongoing efforts in organizing events related to it. With completion slated for 2015, the project has already received two awards for sustainability from the STO Foundation, as well as Georgia Tech’s Dennis Award for Global Engagement.

To learn more about the project and ways to contribute, please contact Assistant Professor Daniel Baerlecken at To help de-fray the cost of construction supplies, the team has set up a fundraising page at,, for those who would like to be a part of this project.

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School of Architecture

Institute and Campus, Architecture
Related Core Research Areas
People and Technology
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Daniel Baerlecken, featured, School of Architecture, South Africa
  • Created By: Lisa Herrmann
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Jun 19, 2014 - 5:31am
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:16pm