Slovo Park at a Glance

Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo.

The forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Their only tactics comprising of service delivery protest, painstaking formal requests for upgrade and currently a lawsuit against the City of Johannesburg.

Currently the community of Slovo Park with its development partners are strategizing this key social and political move.




Slovo Park Project 2010

The Project In Brief...

After making contact with the community of Slovo Park the University of Pretoria with community members began researching and designing an upgrading and development plan for the settlement.

The research team, made up of the community and the students,  identified a small portion of their proposed design in the form of a Community Center that was built over a period of six weeks.

The team had to arrange the funding, build the project and manage the entire process.

The Slovo Park Project 2010

The Slovo Park Project began as a small research project in the University of Pretoria's Housing and Urban Environments module of the Architectural Honours Year. 

It quickly gained momentum in its relation to the community it desire to understand the problems faced by South Africa's Urban Poor. The process culminated in a joint project towards a built goal with not only a physical product but many intangible outcomes that extended beyond simply 'another community project'. 

The streets are your playground in Slovo

In 2010 the University of Pretoria Architecture Department, Boukunde, offered its Honors year students the opportunity to work with a small informal community located 10km south of Soweto named Slovo Park.

Location of Slovo in relation to Johannesburg City
 The Research

The student group of Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Hattingh and Makgabutlane, began the project with a sensitive and holistic research process to try and comprehensively understand the socio-economic context of day to day life in Slovo Park. 
*This article features snippets from the first draft of the book Slovo Park Project: A process of understanding.
Edited by Claudia Filipe and compiled by Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk 
contributions from Makgabutlane and Hattingh

This involved several mapping exercises, interviews and detailed sketches of the local housing typologies. 

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

Measuring up the existing

Discovering the world inside Slovo
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

 The residents of Slovo opened their doors to the research team's questions

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)
Playgrounds of Slovo - an electricity pylon
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)


The myriad of faces in Slovo, a traditional healer and a struggling, but happy couple

The communities association with the Federation of The Urban Poor (FEDUP) and C.O.R.C was crucial in this process as they were instrumental in arranging and facilitating the research trips as well as bringing forward extremely helpful and willing community members.

Mapping Slovo through the community's eyes
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

The Individual Proposals

From this process a larger urban framework was proposed that sought to link Slovo to the neighboring community of El Derado Park while developing Slovo from within and maintaining the existing sense of community that the township demonstrated to the students during the research phase. 

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

From here the students were required to propose their own individual theoretical projects that they felt would aid in the development of Slovo Park.

The responses were dynamically varied in nature with some designing a processional route from the township to the adjacent cemetery, incorporating the myriad of African cultures and their relationship to death while others focused on development around housing with titles such as ‘Housing Clinics’ in an attempt to capture the humble manner in which the inhabitants throughout south Africa possess the power to build their own houses but require some assistance and knowledge sharing.

The Housing Clinic

The project was well received by the University and was presented to the Department of Human Settlements at their Indaba in September of 2010 as well as presented to the community themselves during their meeting with government on site.

Presenting to the community of Slovo
Garnering community feedback with an informal presentation to an informal audience
The Built Intervention

The university then offered the students the further opportunity to fund and construct a small portion of the proposed design and build it over an allocated period of 8 weeks.

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

As the designs proposed over the research period were far too large and costly to build in the 8 week period the student group decided that they would pool together the principles from each design and with the addition of a new student member, Van Wyk, would design a small intervention within the earlier proposed urban framework.

Planning the build with the local business forum

The site as we found it. Waiting to be unlocked
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

The resultant design was a proposed community center, which fitted into a civic space. This center and civic area would provide the people of Slovo Park a place for the community to meet and determine the future for itself. An existing dilapidated structure that housed the 1994 Election Station was chosen as the team felt that this was where the change began and should be respected so.

Proposed Slovo Hall - Community Meeting Center

Proposed Civic Center

The center was specifically designed with the larger future in mind and phased into 5 early construction phases and 5 later larger future development phases. 

Community poster to explain the process over the Build Weeks (3m Long)
Early construction phases allowed the functions of the future development phase to still operate on site without the actual infrastructure of the later development.

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)
This scheme was presented to the community for input and design assistance at the future Slovo Hall.

First formal presentation to the community

Presenting the ideas to people of Slovo using models proved to be the most effective way of community
These were some of the steps taken in an attempt to construct an effective space and building in a very short period of time. The team’s motto became “Do the most, with the least”.

The Construction Process

Building began in September and the support received from the community themselves and the local business was overwhelming with each day as varied as the next. Daily more people would join the workforce and get involved in some way.

Employing local help in measuring the site
The first site work informally done by help found on site
(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

Clearing the site with more 'help'

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)
The core team getting the work ball rolling

Laying the foundation for the center

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)
As the project gathered momentum the team began to see the relationships with these donators and consultants were going to be the lifeblood of future development in Slovo Park. 

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

Getting into the swing of work

Slowly the site started to take shape

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

The building team discussing how the future wall will look

Meals, donated by local business's on site, became a key time to reflect and build bonds between the team

Flood damage slowed the progress at points

But behind each setback were some truly inspiring moments

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)


The ladies working on site working on the reeds added a rich dimension of song and colour to the long day

 The reeds on site went from being a element of contention to a point pride assembled in some way by all members of the team

The paving arrived, late, but well received as it drew the elements of the center together


As the final touches began to be applied the energy on site was electrifying as the team neared their goal

Last Construction Days


The center as it stood before the hand over day

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

The building team. tired, weary, but proud
Handing Over
The project was completed on the 20th of November and opened during an exuberant day of celebration and deliberation where the locals met and discussed the future of Slovo Park in their new community center while children and the people of Slovo danced in the civic area and welcomed in their newly opened public building.

The first of several community meetings to inaugurate the new meeting center


The newly opened Slovo Hall as the team left it on November 20th, 2010
The student group has followed up on several post hand over visits to discuss the future of the center and complete the hand over process.

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

 For more information please visit .

Looking Forward

The team designed the facility to built in stages as part of the formal hand over these plans were given to the people of Slovo to use in the future development of their community.

(To be Published, Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Van Wyk)

Construction Summary

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
 Week 4

Week 6
Week 8
Hand Over Day