A curated selection of projects from Unit 11.

Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg.

This body of work is a reflection and dialogue on the development of the students design projects through 2017 and is presented publicly on the eve the students final exams.

Unit Leaders Sumayya Vally and Stephen Hobbs have been inspired by the deeply personal and subjective nature of the students reading of their own heritage and interpretation of history and place.

As stated by Sumayya Vally:  We experiment with the definition of architecture through a number of contrasting analogies, some of which are compatible and can coexist with other definitions, and some which are exclusive and contradict other definitions. In searching for these new languages, engagement with artistic disciplines affords us a wider breadth of form and process language to draw from.

A number of projects are being developed which work through (rather than resolve) concerns of material memory, cultural edifices, trauma and politics, employing metaphors of ghosts, nightmares, phantom limbs, exquisite corpses and plastic identities. By illustrating (or designing, if you will) such conditions, the unit attempts to bring to the surface some of the historical fragments haunting the South African collective subconscious.

Unit 11’s Course overview

Over the past 20 years in South Africa, a concern with monuments, museums and archives (loosely described as ‘ruins’) has gained prominence as part of a much broader global architectural discourse that engages with places of memory and trauma. In our context, ‘heritage’ appears to be in a state of perpetual contestation and irresolution. Unit 11 is interested in contributing to this emerging discourse through multiple modes of representation and practice and through sensitivity to the memory and identity of place and site. Our methodologies encourage students to work the intersection of artistic, social, psychological, anthropological and contemporary architectural practice as a way of critiquing the generally conservative nature of current responses to heritage in architecture, especially in our context.

The Unit aims to produce architects with a new armory of skills to interrogate standard modes of expression in both academic and practice-based spheres. 

The first quarter of 2017 consisted of a series of short briefs formulated to get the students going with speculative and conceptual thinking, In addition students were taken on a tour of their research site, Santa Rama –Miniland, a defunct Lilliputian theme park, built in Wemmer Pan, Turfontein, in the 1970’s,. In the second quarter, our students more clearly defined their project interests, working toward a Major Design Project interest. Our students are currently consolidating their schemes for their final review in November.


Located in Johannesburg, one of the world’s most exciting and challenging cities, we aim to offer a world-class architectural educational experience to our students. We are the continent’s only dedicated post-graduate school of architecture and the only African school to offer the world-renowned Unit System way of teaching, first pioneered by London’s Architectural Association in the 1970s. The African continent is a uniquely challenging and creative laboratory which gives our students and tutors the edge in finding and exploring new ways to think and do work.

Our aim? Simple. 
To become Africa’s leading postgraduate school of architecture by 2025.

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