DESIGN. DEVELOP. BUILD: The Guga S'Thebe Children's Theater in Langa, Cape Town, South Africa

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In July 2014, the School of Architecture sent a group of 15 undergraduate and graduate students, led by Assistant Professor Daniel Baerlecken, 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 was two-fold – to enhance architecture education through hands-on design-build experience and to teach the importance of sustainability and global social responsibility. The exhibition will showcase the summer trip and show different types of neo-vernacular building prototypes that were part of the design-build project.

About the Guga S’Thebe Theater and the DESIGN.DEVELOP.BUILD project

The Guga S’Thebe children’s theater serves as a home for community classes and performances that attract local children, adolescents and artists, as well as international tourists. The project and its construction have become visible thanks to the World Design Capital event 2014, creating a dialogue about innovative sustainable building methods through participation, social integration and implementation of recycled/re-used materials.  

The DESIGN.DEVELOP.BUILD. project rethinks container architecture as a sustainable prototype. The visiting students implemented 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.

To expand the theater’s functionality, a large, flexible interior and exterior multi-purpose space is needed to facilitate theatric productions, concerts, church services, marriages and festivals with a focus on impacting the younger members of the community.  Cape Town, with its large and busy harbor, creates the opportunity to re-use locally found shipping containers. Shipping containers are used widely in the townships to provide safe and inexpensive shelters. Combining re-used or recycled waste materials with traditional earth construction methods becomes a key element of neo-vernacular, low-cost construction that can be reconstructed easily by inexperienced laborers and adapted to other building typologies.

Video from the project can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uiCV-NGnZcA



  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Rachel Von Ins
  • Created:10/29/2014
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:04/13/2017