UCT’s Annual Imizamo Yethu Water Platform

UCT’s Annual Imizamo Yethu Water Platform

In Imizamo Yethu in Hout Bay, Cape Town an estimated 9464 households (as surveyed by the Solid Waste Department of the City of Cape Town in May 2011) make use of shared toilets and taps – this means that the service ratio in the settlement is 61.1 households per toilet and a staggering 394.3 households per tap. As part of a continuing effort to engage with this issue, the University of Cape Town’s second year architecture students, together with a few key staff members and members of the local community, recently helped to design and construct the seventh annual water platform in Imizamo Yethu (or IY as it is known to local residents).

The platforms are a way of providing additional services, more dignified places for water collection and washing, social gathering spaces, and cleaner areas for children to play. Tensile Cables assisted the project by donating the cables used to provide a colourful recycled bottle top shade structure suspended above the wash area.

The progression of a project through different courses culminating in an actual built artefact offered a wide range of learning experiences for students, and eventually for community members who were involved during the planning phases. Unemployed community members were nominated by the community to assist during construction: There was an exchange of knowledge where students taught community members new skills; and the community members in turn taught the students artisanal skills and demonstrated the realities of living in informal settlements. All the earthworks, built formwork, installed reinforcing, mixed concrete, built foundations and a retaining wall, a paved platform, made wash tops, painting; and the making of the shading structure were done by the students and local residents.

The use of recycled content was again one of the themes of this year’s platform: Concrete test cubes were used for paving and construction of the wash top walls. The 2800 bottle caps that were required for the much-needed shade structure could not be sourced from local recycling depots at short notice and so were purchased instead from Operation Smile, thereby making a contribution towards the funding of operations for children with cleft palates. The cables used in the shade structure design are made from Marine Grade 316 stainless steel, a very sustainable material with an extended lifespan, in keeping with the environmentally concerned theme of the project.

Initial reports from the community are that they are very happy with the platform and no doubt, this small project will help a little to ease the difficulties of daily life in Imizamo Yethu. Thank you to the team at UCT’s Architecture, Planning & Geomatics department for considering Tensile Cables in their design. It was a pleasure to have been involved in such a worthwhile initiative.

Tensile Cables was also involved in UCT’s 2013 Imizamo Yethu Water Platform; and the 2014 platform formed part of the World Design Capital project list.


Mike Louw, UCT Architecture Planning & Geomatics
Photos thanks to Mike Louw