In search of a new architectural narrative: displacing power harboured by Alexandra township’s migrant labour hostels.
It is undeniable that the spatial and architectural representations of the colonial and apartheid regimes’ power in historically repressed South African communities remain as constant reminders of the atrocities committed. These built and spatial remnants in the new democratic political landscape are what some experts metaphorically refer to as “festering wounds”.1 In the case of Alexandra Township [which is central to this discussion], these remnants are represented by the single-sex migrant-hostels that still tower over the rest of the township. Notwithstanding the fact that this former freehold township is one of the oldest in the country, the layers of history that have accumulated in Alexandra under colonial and nationalist regimes demonstrate the urban experience of the previously marginalised people of colour in South African cities (Nieftagodien and Bonner, 2008). Through historically contextualising the conditions around the accommodation of migrant labourers, this project will demonstrate the continuities in the previous regimes’ efforts to regulate the rate of urbanization in South Africa through racial segregation and other different forms of control (Silverman, 1996: 70-72). Furthermore, it is without a doubt that the aftermath of the legislated ideologies and policies that were weaponized by the colonial and nationalist powers continue to reverberate in this country. To illustrate, the spaces that we currently occupy as a nation geographically, have been largely defined by thelegistlated ideologies of the mentioned regimes. For this specific study, the above mentioned spaces that we are occupying are symbolically represented by the existing single sex-migrant labour hostels in Alexandra Township. These buildings remain to be in their original state, all in their physicality and spatiality despite the change in the demographic make up of their inhabitants over the years. They were built to accommodate single-sex migrants but currently families comprising of people of different ages and genders reside there as well.
This document is submitted in partial fulfillment for the degree: Master of Architecture [Professional] at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa, in the year 2020.