Dear GIFA Members,

I write in my capacity as director of the International Union of Architects, work programme, Community Architecture and Human Rights, UIA CA+HR. 

We are in the process of forming an architectural CA+HR task team, volunteer based, that could assist with efforts relating to the Covid-19 crisis locally in South Africa. The UIA is putting together a central crisis centre, to which this work will contribute. We believe that architects have a unique skills set that could benefit our country during this time of crisis. We recognise that better planning and spatial management of the relief efforts must be put in place if we are to have the intended outcomes of saving as many lives as possible. We are calling on all architects and practices to come forward and support. 

The will of government, together with the support of private sector is imperative. While make shift testing centres are being explored in various locations, government looks towards using existing infrastructure to manage the demand that will soon be upon us. This approach could be fatal, as it is almost impossible to retro-fit existing buildings with the required closed drainage / water system to prevent contamination of neighbouring infrastructure. Learning from the hospitals designed in West Africa for the treatment of Ebola patients (2013-2016) and the hospitals built in China, Wuhan for the treatment of the Covid-19 patients, the approach to place field hospitals in green field sites where all-inclusive systems could be designed for the buildings, is a sound one. Adequate sanitation systems are one of the critical measures of controlling cross-infection and the spread of disease. Sustainable technology innovative systems must be considered in the design of these field hospitals. 

The City of Johannesburg, Department of Health has been in the forefront of bringing quality healthcare to the people. In the design of the prototype model clinic, which I lead, in 2011/2012, the considerations of lowering cross-infection and controlling the flow of people, was researched, tested and improved upon. The design of primary healthcare facilities in the city, many of which my own practice has been involved in, has proven highly effective, with isolation rooms offering protection for other patients from potentially Covid-19 infected persons. These primary healthcare facilities work even in these conditions, primarily because of the successful cohorting of patients.    

Possibly the most pressing problem facing the success of the lockdown and, by extension flattening the curve, is how to deal with homeless people. The planning of human flows a critical aspect which seems to have been overlooked. In Tshwane we’ve seen metro police and SAPS rounding up these people and dumping them at stadiums. In Johannesburg the city is urgently trying to prepare a number of unused buildings to house these people but, the preparation of buildings for this purpose usually takes months. The first thing to note is that these facilities, especially stadiums, are not equipped to house people. NGO’s familiar in dealing with displaced people have pointed out the failures to cater for water points per capita, proper sanitation, physical distancing, etc. 

Added to this is the fact that homeless people are in and of themselves a complicated and diverse group of people. Some are drug addicts that cannot simply be carolled but need support. The same can be said of the many mentally challenged people who habitually roam the streets of our cities. Many of the people who were gathered in the initial swoop at the start of the lockdown have returned to the streets with many complaining about the facilities or lack thereof and the shortage of basic foodstuffs.

We hope to work together with both the public and private sector in making a real difference and are willing to advise on all spatial / planning matters and concerns. 

To those of you already involved in work relating to this crisis, please share your experiences with us so we may inspire even more to participate! We thank you for your efforts and salute the time, energy and intellectual contributions made. 
Should you wish to participate in this initiative as a company or individual capacity, please add you name to the list by sending your details to the convenor of our Education Committee, Janet Saaiman Architect, email address

Or if you wish to have a discussion about the initiative and how you may contribute, feel free to contact me directly on
Best regards, 

Nadia Tromp
d i r e c t o r                                         
UIA CA+HR                                     

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