While South Africa is usually seen as a source of stability and prosperity in its region, approximately 7.5 million people live in informal settlements and the country faces an overall housing shortage of 2.5 million units. Arising from this context, Empower Shack is an interdisciplinary development project directed by U-TT and the local NGO Ikhayalami Development Services, in collaboration with the BT-Section community and associated local and international partners. The ongoing pilot phase is focused on a cluster of 68 houses within the BT-Section of Khayelitsha. Through innovative design and organizational models, the project aims to develop a comprehensive and sustainable informal settlement upgrading strategy centered on four core components: a two-story housing prototype, participatory spatial planning, ecological landscape management, and integrated livelihoods programming. Employing the socio-spatial “Blocking Out” process alongside new digital visualization tools and micro-financing, Empower Shack has created an interface between residents, professionals, and the government. Together, with its partners, U-TT is developing an approach that responds to contemporary social, ecological, and market dynamics, and which will provide incentives for the state to extend tenureship rights. This would create a legally durable foundation for future incremental upgrading, as well as a system that can dovetail with established policy mechanisms. The physical upgrading of BT-Section will be complete by the end of 2017, at which point a year-long evaluation project will monitor the outcome and plan for future upgrades in the region. In the meantime, the City of Cape Town is supporting the program as a pilot project for potential replication.


Alfredo Brillembourg & Hubert Klumpner

Coordinator / Architect

Scott Lloyd

Research Team

Clara Bitter
Fernande Bodo
Axel Chevroulet
Maria Deluren
Michele de Viliers
Emma Flores
Gregiore Farquet
Andrea Johnson
Marcin Kurdziel
Scott Lloyd
Svenya Schärfer
Irfan Safdag
Giulia Tigliè
Danny Wills


De Villiers & Hulme, Engineers
Design Space Africa
Information Architecture, ETHZ
Management Information Services, ETHZ
PJCarew Consulting
OKRA Landscape Architects
Arturo Brillembourg
Riverside Consulting


BT Section Site C


The Swiss Re Foundation


Vhernier and Individual Donors


BT Section Site C Development Committee
City of Cape Town


Khayelitsha, Cape Town, South Africa

Project timeframe

2013 –


Ongoing project