The Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Urban Futures Centre hosted a seminar on the design philosophy behind harm at the Steve Biko Campus on 2 April 2019.
The presentation was delivered by Tshepo Mokholov and Andrew Brose from the architecture firm, MASS Design Group. In 2018, the not for profit architecture firm, MASS Design Group and global health expert, Advanced Access and Delivery, collaboratively developed the design and operational guidelines for a new Harm Reduction Centre for the City of Durban, South Africa.
Building upon the subsequent attention from officials and other organisations working to reverse the opioid overdose epidemic, the two teams began to research and compile standards for the design of safe spaces providing dignity and safety to millions.
Having conducted workshops and interviews with infectious disease response teams, outreach programmes, city officials, homeless individuals, and people who consume drugs, MASS and AA and D are critically positioned to develop the new standard for harm reduction and overdose prevention programmes and the spaces in which they operate.
Welcoming guests to the lecture was Professor Monique Marks from the UFC, who also gave an overview of the need for the project regarding street level drug use in the city and how they looked at ways to provide a set of services for intervention for drug use disorders, for those who felt they wanted to resolve them. “We started a series of conversations to bring together people from the city, government, and civil societies to talk about this issue, using the framework of harm reduction which is really what the centre adheres to, and of course which is very different from the notion of an abstinence based approach to drug use. We came up with this idea of a one-stop intervention centre and started engaging with the deputy mayor of the city, recognising we needed to bring together the various services. We came up with what we have called temporarily, An Africa Centre for Hope,” she said.
Guest speakers Tshepo Mokholov and Andrew Brose from the architecture firm, MASS Design Group, gave more insight into their social justice organisation, and believe every person’s health matters. The duo gave a better understanding of the concept, research, design and architectural structural design concepts behind their design.
“We began a series of conversations to get a better idea of the people in Durban using drugs and tried to immerse ourselves and get as much information as we could. We came up with three concepts which were overdose prevention, infection control and destigmatization for architectural purposes. We also needed to gauge with the community and how best to put a better structure around the facilities, also, we looked at a centralised model as there has to be access to transportation, multiple entries, an open space,” said Brose.
Mokholo reiterated that they also looked to the community in understanding of what would work and are also developing a booklet for people to understand what the centre is all about, looks like and what it entails. “Through architecture, we can share skills and knowledge, and provide employment in the process, feeding back into local economies,” he said.
The design concept has been sent to the eThekwini Municipality and should be up for tender soon. The MASS Design team are continuing to engage with international safe consumption spaces, meet with experts in the field, and advocate for the funding and implementation of spaces providing hope across South Arica.
Mokholo is part of the 2016 inaugural cohort of fellows at the African Design Centre, a unique training programme for recent graduates of architecture and engineering. He is a firm believer that design can and should have a positive impact on communities.
Brose leads the South Africa Lab, established to address regional issues of inequality in housing, environment, and health. He originally joined MASS in 2010 as a Design Fellow in Rwanda, where he worked on the design and construction of projects across the region, including the Umubano Primary School, Mubuga Primary School, Butaro Doctors Housing, and Rwinkwavu Village Housing. In 2014, Andrew moved to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to serve as the project manager for the Ilima Conservation School where he supervised the construction management and documentation of the unique engagement process.
Pictured: Tshepo Mokholov and Andrew Brose from the architecture firm, MASS Design Group, delivering their presentation.