Usasazo Secondary School - Khayelitsha Township, Cape Town - South Africa
by Noero Wolff
Usasazo Secondary School, which serves approximately 1500 pupils on 2600 m2 , is situated in Cape Town’s biggest and most notorious township. Established in 1985, Khayelitsha, Xhosa for New Home, is today South Africa’s biggest single township, made up in over 70% from informal dwellings and housing over 2 million people. In addition, It is a very young settlement with over 40% of its residents under 19 years of age.
Noero Wolff Architects address through the design for the Usasazo Secondary School both the social and the physical context of the township, and expand the brief to encourage flexible uses such as adapting to the Further Education and Training (FET) legislation which calls for life skills training and entrepreneurial skills. The classrooms facing the street become an important point of interaction with the community through simple elements such as a counter top and a seating area. The 37 classrooms, library, computer room, hall and administration section are organized around 4 courtyards, allowing for smaller, intimate gatherings while maintaining an open character.
Surrounded by two cookie-cutter schools on each side, Usasazo stands out in a positive contrast, fulfilling the critical potential of public and even more so educational architecture in informal settlements, providing not only a place for learning, but also a place to read, to surf the internet, to play, in short: a place to be.