Diepsloot is the kind of environment that requires input from the best, most courageous and inspired architects. It is not every architect who would have the patience and willingness to learn from this environment, or the humility necessary to create opportunities and bring human dignity to it, where it is most needed. The reality is that most people on earth live within conditions of informality - the reality is also that very few architects have the ability to work meaningfully within such contexts. However, it would seem that Thorsten Deckler and Anne Graupner from 26'10 south Architects are the exception to this generalisation.
The process of realising a building like this is no easy task. It is clear that the architects and the rest of the professional team and builders had to face and overcome administrative inefficiencies, political opportunism, high levels of social tension and budget constraints. Paul Kotze, 2014
From the Project Architect: Thosrsten Deckler
What happens when the architect is told to draw up a scheme in a week and to be on site in a month - in time for the project to be used as an electioneering tool?
What happens when the project is stopped for a year only to be continued with two separate contractors having to complete construction in 2 months?
What happens when a comprehensive advertising strategy, potentially generating R40 000/month income is never implemented because the managing agent recalls two expressions of interest because they did not follow their own internal procedures? The chimney bases are built - designed to withstand the wind loads of nonexistent billboards. Negotiations with the taxi associations over rental and maintenance delay occupation for one year.
What happens when the client cuts out the photo voltaic installation? The UPS room remains empty and the rank is plunged in dark at its busiest time from 4h00-6h00 am (due to low supply). But the fireplaces can be lit to cook breakfast.
What happens when hardly any meaningful community and user engagement takes place? The idea of a timber armature (as popularly constructed all over Diepsloot is dismissed with the words 'they will burn it'. It is realised, instead, at substantial cost in steel.
What happens when, at the 11th hour, a colour scheme is smuggled past a conservative client and professional team? The former timber columns, now saved from burning, are glowing in orange and the international media machine picks up on the 'exotic colourfulness', publishing the work unoccupied despite protestation.
The building is now occupied. It is no longer clean, pristine or very well-maintained. It is possibly not even loved as much as it could be when insufficient electricity supply just adds to the daily grind of being a trader, taxi driver or commuter negotiating a dark piece of architecture.