Unit for Urban Citizenship


The Unit for Urban Citizenship (UUC) strives to develop the scholarship of civil engagement and participatory development within the context of a complex emergent African urbanism, and embed a culture of responsible and collaborative urban citizenship in UP graduates and the communities within which we work.

Aims and Purpose

The aims of the UCC are:

  • to facilitate transdisciplinary research on urban citizenship;
  • to focus community engagement and strengthen social impact through evidenced-based multi-scalar interventions;
  • to support the socio-economic and spatial transformation imperatives of the national development agenda;
  • and give effect to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

These aims will be achieved through inter-faculty liaison and alignment of existing curricular activities to research projects and community engagement initiatives aimed at supporting national development and sustainable development goals.

The unit liaises with the faculties of UP and research centres around trans-disciplinary research projects, curriculum collaboration and intervention projects, coordinating curricular engagement with community participants over appropriate timespans, and ensuring that these engagements are mutually understood and reciprocally significant. The UUC assists with ethical monitoring, educational rigor and research consistency as well as institutional alignment with UP’s policies of Community Engagement and Social Responsibility, ensuring that the role of UP as anchor institution is to be served and strengthened through these endeavours. 

Membership and Status

The UUC is situated in the Department of Architecture, but aims to include representatives from each school in the EBIT faculty and student representatives from EBIT house. The co-ordinator of the JCP module and the chairperson of the EBIT Curriculum Transformation Committee are ex officio members of the unit. The unit confers once every quarter, with minutes of meetings submitted to the Dean’s office. The UUC is a University Institution as part of the Faculty of EBIT and is accorded all the rights and privileges by the University of Pretoria and the Faculty as befit its status.

The People

Dr Carin Combrinck was the director of an architectural practice in Johannesburg for 15 years before joining the Department of Architecture at the University of Pretoria in 2010. She currently coordinates and lectures in the Honours programme while teaching third-year Citizen Design theory. She has been the study leader for selected M(Prof) students over the course of her academic career. Combrinck has engaged with communities living in the informal settlements of Slovo Park (Soweto, Johannesburg), Alaska (Mamelodi, Pretoria) as well as Plastic View (Moreleta Park, Pretoria).
Proposals developed by students under her supervision have been presented to various Community Based and Non-Profit Organisations in pursuit of socio-spatial redress. Combrinck is the research field co-ordinator for Urban Citizenship. She completed her PhD in 2015 on the role of the architectural profession in the South African discourse on informal settlement upgrade. The social responsibility of architects in the emerging conditions of African urbanism underpins much of her research interest. Most particularly, methods of participation that contribute towards Public Interest Design are investigated as part of her studio modules. Theoretical positions in support of an authentic dialogue between spatial design and society provides the basis of further research endeavours.
Academic staff
Ms Anika van Aswegen is a human-centred design researcher with experience in community projects, including local traditions, creative art and environmental initiatives at rural schools. She was the programme coordinator for Interior Design at the Nelson Mandela University from 2003-2009. She completed her MInt (Interior Architecture) degree Cum Laude in 2005, titled “The Relation between spatial definition and place-making: architectural and urban interiors” with interest in design for social scale.
Anika joined the Department of Architecture at UP in 2016 and lectures undergraduate design theory in meaning-making and subjective well-being. She supervises MInt (Prof) students and teaches in the Honours Interface Studio. She is a reviewer for an international journal and is currently completing her PhD in Interior Architecture. Her research interests focus on empathic ways of expanding the conventional design process, prioritising the user and shifting perspectives and worldviews to better understand complex design scenarios. This process of transformative engagement in the spatial design studio aims to foster students as citizenship designers.
Ms Karen Botes is a registered Professional Landscape Architect with the South African Council for the Landscape Architectural Profession (SACLAP) and has thirty years’ experience in all aspects of landscape architecture, with twenty years’ experience in environmental impact assessment. Her work experience includes landscape architecture and urban design in the public sector (City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality). She founded a micro-enterprise in 1998 and managed the firm until 2018, after which she joined the University of Pretoria as lecturer in January 2019. Karen teaches in the undergraduate programmes, and supervises ML(Prof) students.
She completed her Master Technologiae (Horticulture) Cum Laude at the Tshwane University of Technology in 2007. The aim of her dissertation titled “The evaluation of existing planning guidelines for urban vegetation – a case study” was to assess possible weaknesses in guidelines related to open spaces in Pretoria.
Karen is currently busy with her PhD in Landscape Architecture on the topic of African food crops in living wall systems.
Mr Jan Hugo is registered architect and academic, he has worked on a number of private and public projects before joining the UP Department of Architecture in 2016. His research focus is on the impacts of climate change on the city and its citizens and considers the interplay between empirical data and the user’s experience and local response to it. His interest is specifically on how it differs between the formal and informal neighbourhoods. He also played an advisory role in the Hatfield urban framework that has been developed by the University of Pretoria and the local Business community. Currently, he is assisting and advising on the development of the Melusi Health Post, which is located in a rapidly developing informal settlement in Pretoria West. 
Ms Dayle Shand is a professionally registered landscape architect who has worked with and for a number of landscape architectural firms practicing in Gauteng between 2009 and 2017. In the latter part of 2017, Dayle joined the Department of Architecture as a permanent staff member, teaching in the undergraduate programmes, as well as supervising ML(Prof) students.
Dayle is currently completing her PhD studies in landscape architecture, on the topic of environmental justice - and in particular the lived experiences of community members utilising community parks as nearby nature, in the City of Tshwane. This research is closely aligned with the premises of active urban citizenship - and seeks to empower the voices of marginalised communities - as related to community parks and ecosystem services. Dayle has also supervised, or is currently supervising ML(Prof) students who are dealing with issues related to environmental justice, and place-based design.
Ms Janri Barker is a  professional interior architect who has been working in practice  and academia since 2008. She completed her MInt(Prof) (Interior Architecture) Cum Laude at the University of Pretoria in 2010. Janri continued to lecture in interior design and contributed to the Interior Design, BA degree course development and accreditation at the Design School Southern Africa (Vega). From 2013 Janri practiced as an interior architect in Gauteng. In 2016 Janri returned to the University of Pretoria as a part time design and construction lecturer in the undergraduate interior architecture program. Janri currently represents the first year design program in the Unit for Urban Citizenship.
Urban Citizen Ambassadors

Ms Kelsey Smith
Ms Lauren Konstantinou
Ms Purll Naidoo

Advisory Board

The UUC is overseen by an Advisory Board, as stipulated in University of Pretoria document S 3563/05. The role of the Advisory Board is to provide overall guidance, advice and direction to the UUC. The Advisory Board will be convened annually, with minutes lodged in the office of the Dean, and will consist of the following:

EBIT faculty

Dean (Chair of the board), Heads of schools, co-ordinator of the JCP module, chair of the Curriculum Transformation Committee and student representative from EBIT house, Dean of the Mamelodi Campus,Directors of centres involved with relevant research projects, HoDs of departments involved with relevant research projects and Key stakeholders as identified from time to time by the chair of the board.


Curriculum Integration

The University of Pretoria has a well established history of Community Engagement (CE) (De la Rey, Kilfoil & van Niekerk 2017), with a recently amended Policy on Community Engagement (2019). Within the EBIT faculty, the Joint Community Project (JCP) module is recognised for its consistent history of curricular engagement and service to society (Jordaan 2014). Further to these instances of institutional CE, the importance of embedding citizenship as part of sustained curricular transformation has been pointed out by way of the Quality Enhancement Report on the university’s Transformation policies (UP 2017). It is therefore proposed that vertical streaming of CE, as well as horizontal alignment between faculties should be encouraged to ensure embedded participation in the curriculum. Over the past three years, the UUC has been able to establish such a pilot model in which vertical streaming of CE in the architectural disciplines could occur, and in which horizontal alignment with the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS) and the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) could be achieved through a shared focus on Early Childhood Development. 

Educational Ecosystem

The Mamelodi Collaborative is an anchor institution strategy collaboration between the University of Pretoria and Rutgers University-Newark (USA) focused on community engagement efforts in the township of Mamelodi in the City of Tshwane, with a strong emphasis on the education ecosystem through the research theme focused on the broadening of education pathways. The collaboration builds on current pre-university interventions that have led to notable success in graduation rates of students that transition from After School and Out of School initiatives. In addition, pre-existing partnerships between community institutions in Mamelodi and the University of Pretoria have been further developed, through models of anchor institution engagement, for the enhancement of the surrounding education networks.

South African policies on education have been transformed since 1994 to be inclusive and student-centred, with a holistic approach to the educational pathways from Early Childhood to Tertiary Education. Despite these progressive intentions, the built environment lacks an architectural response in support of educational development. There is an evident disparity between the functional design of the infrastructure and the pedagogical consequences sought in the policy intentions. The influence of the built environment on educational development cannot be ignored, calling for an urgent revision of spatial guidelines in the operational and funding mechanisms of this infrastructure. The Mamelodi Collaborative Built Environment working group focuses on developing policy recommendations regarding spatial guidelines in support of the combined educational intentions of the Departments of Social Development (ECD), Basic Education and Higher Education and Training. Alignment between these intentions and the operational mechanisms in the delivery of infrastructure by the departments of Public Works and Infrastructure Development are investigated towards developing a healthy educational ecosystem. Referring to the educational environment as an ecosystem is to understand the impact of educational institutions as a nuclear agent. They have the capability of reinforcing existing and creating durable connections within networks in their context. For this reason, it becomes increasingly important to address the role of education within a contexts ecosystem.
MArch (Prof) mini-dissertations that have been developed within this theme:

Catherine Crocker: Common ground : finding commonality in a place of learning

Colette Maritz: Alice in a township : accessible learning through an interactive communal educational environment

Timme-Loise Nortje: Activating the Edge : a Centre for Urban Citizenship 

Jason Oberholster: Child-centred Communities : Architectural Intervention as Catalyst for Early Childhood Development

Caitlin Porter: The [Art]isan of Architecture 

Simoni Veldsman: The Knowledge Economy : An Outward Looking School for Social Entrepreneurship 

Public Interest Design


Woodlane Village informal settlement spreads over 8 hectares of land on the corner of De Villebois Mareuil and Garsfontein roads near the exclusive Woodhill Golf Estate in Moreleta East, City of Tshwane. It sits immediately adjacent to the Moreleta Church with a congregation of over 7000 people. Woodlane Village has 846 households representing around 3000 people from South Africa and neighbouring SADEC countries. About 10 years ago the first inhabitants lived in clusters scattered in the open landscape out of necessity in order to live where they work. Since partially formalising the settlement, the City of Tshwane has been providing potable water and latrines to the village (De Vos 2014:3). Woodlane Village is an indicator of the vast imbalances and a systemic failure within our city, sitting silently on valuable land amongst extravagant residential estates. Through a collaboration between Honours and MProf studios, there is a focus on mapping the interrelatedness between networks of support and the social networks of the urban community in terms of socio-spatial justice. Conclusions from the mapping are used to form Community Action Plans, as developed by Goethert and Hamdi in 1997, to contribute to an integrated future through Public Interest Design. Continued engagement with the research partners underpins the studio, so that the resultant strategies may reflect the views and voices of this emerging urban society.

The Informal Settlement Forum 

The forum was formed in November 2018 (under the initiative of the Moreleta Church) after the shack fires that took place in both Woodlane Village (also known as Plastic View) and Cemetery view in October 2018. The Informal Settlement Forum (ISF) is focussed on community engagement efforts in both Woodlane Village and Cemetery View in Pretoria East. It exists to involve, coordinate, and mobilise all the interested parties and individuals to find short and long term sustainable solutions.

Furthermore the ISF Urban workgroup sees its mandate as facilitating collaboration between all stakeholders, including the South African chapter of Shack Dwellers International Alliance with Woodlane Village, as well as residents from the surrounding estates and other relevant stakeholders to offer input into the development of a shared vision that would put the City of Tshwane (CoT) in a position to understand and cater for the complex needs and requirements of all affected parties in the area. The Upgrade of Informal Settlement Policy (UISP) allows for a pre-feasibility phase which would normally be undertaken by the CoT once they have applied for funding from the provincial MEC. The UUC’s position is that we may be able to assist in this phase thereby unblocking some of the issues that often delay or derail these processes.

The University of Pretoria
As part of its commitment to engaged, trans-disciplinary research, individuals from the University of Pretoria’s Department of Architecture, Centre for Faith and Community, and Department of Family Medicine, participate in the ISF, providing strategic support in exploring a viable, integrated future on this land. Outcomes of the research are captured and shared by the Unit for Urban Citizenship in the Department of Architecture and the Urban Studio of the Centre for Faith and Community.

Urban Interface

Hatfield in the City of Tshwane has undergone substantial changes over the past decades and has recently densified significantly due to additional student accommodation provided within the area. As a result of the development there has been significant improvement within the area, while at the same time an increase in localised negative effects. In response the University of Pretoria along with various stakeholders have proposed the expansion of the existing Hatfield Precinct CID and a renewed effort to improve Hatfield. As anchor entity within Hatfield the University of Pretoria aims to create the New “Hatfield Campus Village” following the Vision 2040 framework to develop an integrated, safe and diverse precinct.

The Hatfield urban core is a strategically important metropolitan core within the City that incorporates substantial mixed use, an extensive diplomatic core and a large transient student community. The importance of the Hatfield node is underscored by the presence of one of only three Gautrain stations in the City. The existing Metrorail link and the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system make it one of the most viable cores to develop as a Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) precinct. The current land-use mix includes strong retail, motor service and a small office component with significant potential to further diversify and for intensification. The presence of a number of the best educational facilities in the region from preschool to university sets this precinct apart from any other in the City. The area is well serviced by community amenities and infrastructure and a large and vibrant faith community. 
Despite all the positives and the potential, the area has seen a slow and steady decline with retail and office uses struggling, fuelled by a declining family residential community. The inadvertent signs of urban decay and associated negative impacts are evident throughout. 
In response to this challenge contemporary urbanism is concerned with the social complexity of urban space, the public private interface and has a strong focus on creating safe people-orientated public space environments. Today it is widely accepted that a robust and integrated public environment is a panacea for creating resilient, robust, integrated communities.
In response to the global economic downturn, worldwide austerity measures and increased competition between cities to attract investment and develop vibrant communities, urbanism is gaining centre stage. There has been a steady build-up around, making cities, cores or neighbourhoods more sustainable, liveable and resilient. These days urbanism has a palpable excitement with a new generation of urban stakeholders boldly experimenting with ways of redressing past imbalances, building communities, encouraging new typologies and mixed-use (Wolfe, 2013).

The city, always in flux as a complex organism, is the place we call home. Its body consists of a diverse, often juxtaposed amalgamation of people, places and events. The scenario + interface studio explores various scenarios for urban regeneration of the unused open public space and notorious pedestrian tunnel on the corner of University Way and Lynnwood Road, within the Hatfield CID. The site, now home to the freedom gallery, provides opportunities to address the socio-economic divide between west and east of the Gautrain line. Focus on ‘object-space-system’ allows for a micro lens perspective and an emic/people-centred approach. Urban flotsam: stirring the city (Bunschoten 2001) underscores the attitude towards the project. Small-scale encounters are the driving force behind this investigation – people, events, performance, display, grow and exchange. The project provokes a series of design responses focusing on ‘interface as infrastructure’ through critical reflection on social inclusion, economic exchange, creative intervention and emotional well-being. The contribution of the project is to uncover design scenarios, informed by on-site fieldwork, as a potential pilot study with possible opportunities for prototyping and future rollout in the city.

MProf theses related:

Mpho Malebana: Network of Opportunity : Architecture as a Medium for Upliftment of the Urban Poor Through the Activation of Derelict Urban Spaces https://repository.up.ac.za/handle/2263/68258

Kimberley Mkombeza: Landscape [re]Mediation : a strategized landscape intervention that explores the functional, aesthetic and cultural value of trees as design informant

Nadia Ghillino: The Secret Life of Streets: deployable domesticity tested along Minnaar Street, Pretoria


  1. Rautenbach, V, Bevis Y, Coetzee, S & Combrinck, C. 2015. Evaluating procedural modelling for 3D models of informal settlements in urban design activities. South African Journal of Science 111(11-12):1- 10.
  2. Combrinck, C, Vosloo, P & Osman, A. 2017. Informal settlements: An Upgrade (Part 1). Architecture South Africa 85: 42-49.
  3. Combrinck, C, Vosloo, P & Osman, A. 2017. Informal settlements: An Upgrade (Part 2). Architecture South Africa 86: 32-39.
  4. Combrinck, C. 2018. Socially responsive research-led design in the architecture studio. Frontiers of Architectural Research 7:211-234.
  5. Ndlangamandla, MG & Combrinck, C. 2019. Environmental sustainability of construction practices in informal settlements. Smart and Sustainable Built Environment: https://doi.org/10.1108/SASBE-09-2018-0043
  6. Combrinck, C. & Nortje, T-L. 2020.  Activating the Edge: The university campus as anchor institution. Development Southern Africa. DOI: 10.1080/0376835X.2020.1760083
  7. Combrinck, C. & Venter, M.A. 2020. Embedded participation in the architectural curriculum towards engendering urban citizenship in graduates. Image and Text (34) 01-29. ISSN 2617-3255.DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17159/2617-3255/2020/n34a2


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