By delivering education through seven different programmes, the School profits from a wide range of competencies and expertise, where both staff and students strive to articulate the mission and to lead the respective fields. The degrees offered are: the Bachelor of Architectural Studies (BAS), Bachelor of Science in Geomatics (BScGeomatics), the Bachelor of Architectural Studies (Honours), the Bachelor of Science (Honours) in GIS, the Master of Architecture (MArch Prof.), Master of City Planning and Urban Design (MCPUD), Master of City and Regional Planning (MCRP), Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA), the Master of Philosophy in Conservation of the Built Environment, and the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).
The School’s largest and oldest program is the three year Bachelor of Architecture Studies (BAS) undergraduate program, which provides both a deep and broad education in the field of architecture. The course emphasises the interconnected relationship between architectural design, building technology, history, and theory of architecture. The curriculum is carefully structured to establish an intellectual and disciplinary context for students to develop an understanding of architecture as a form of contemporary cultural production tied to larger social, economic and political issues. The range of studios, lectures, workshops and seminars provides an active learning environment in which individual creativity and criticality can be nurtured. Students graduating from the BAS often choose architectural design with the intention of going on to graduate school to earn a Master of Architecture. Others enter into related fields or the profession.
The BAS (Hons) and Master in Architecture (Professional), which are sequential degrees essential to final registration as an architect, build upon the foundation course and reflect the program’s commitment to the cultural, social, political, technological and ecological issues of the built environment. Committed to a rigorous and interdisciplinary approach throughout the program, students are challenged to be creative, innovative, and responsible leaders in the field. The architect graduates from UCT have long enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, a reputation in this country and abroad as being excellent contributors and leaders in the workplace. They are well placed to take on the challenges of growth and sustainable development that continues to see “architect” listed as a scarce skill in government gazettes. Moreover, the BAS Honours and MArch(Prof) continues to offer the University a significant connection between academia and the “real world” through the ongoing use of Cape Town as laboratory through which social-spatial inequities and challenges can be addressed. Through strong connections with the Western Cape Education Department and the City of Cape Town the research work of students and staff is beginning to gain traction and have a positive impact on the lives and spaces of the citizens of our region.
The two-year course-work and dissertation Masters programme graduates city and regional planners who work primarily in government planning departments but also in other areas of the state, private practise and the NGO sector. Planning is already a national scarce skill and the new national planning law of 2014 (SPLUMA) will greatly exacerbate this shortage as it lays down far-reaching new requirements and roles for planning. The MCRP is accredited by the statutory body SACPLAN (planning posts in government can only be occupied by professionals from accredited schools) and is the only programme in Africa fully accredited by the Royal Town Planning Institute. There are no other accredited masters planning programmes in the Western Cape and only 3 other accredited masters programmes in the country.
Given the lasting imprint of apartheid on South African cities along with the rapid rate of urbanisation, the contribution of well-qualified planners to manage the development and change of cities and regions is crucial. Graduates of the School are known as amongst the best in the country and occupy senior positions at every level of government, allowing them to impact directly on current urban issues.
Urban Design is most often described as the bridge between the parent professions of architecture, planning and landscape architecture. It is a design discipline that deals with the quality of often highly complex, three dimensional physical spaces between buildings. It is because of this recognised ability to negotiate physical integration through outward looking design effort that urban design has gained ever greater traction internationally. The need is nowhere more pressing than in Africa, where levels of urbanisation continues to increase from a disproportionately low base. Rather than being a silo, urban design questions and challenges instant technical decisions or vested interests that may detract from the whole if taken in isolation. It therefore also prefers to describe itself as a fleet-footed, mediating and engaging discipline rather than a more narrowly defined profession that operates within the dictates of controlling councils.
Though urban design often sits uncomfortably along the parent professions with which it by definition overlaps, its need is increasingly being recognised by a range of players on whose support it relies. Because urban designers function better with experience through their need to develop an understanding of other languages of the built environment, it is better suited to students at mid-career, hence the need for restructuring towards a lower credit professional masters degree at UCT, which is currently waiting for national approval.
UCT’s Landscape Architecture program is one of only two such programmes in South Africa, and among a handful in the continent. It was first accredited in 2001 by the South African Council of the Landscape Architecture Profession (SACLAP). There are currently 170 registered landscape architects in South Africa, significantly less than is required to meet the development needs of the country. Further, the profession is identified as a National Scarce Skill.
The UCT MLA Programme is uniquely positioned to address this need as it has a bridging programme specifically suited to drawing in students from the Universities of Technology, which graduate large numbers of previously disadvantaged students. The staff at the UCT MLA Programme has in the recent past invested significant time in collaborating with CPUT (Cape Peninsular University of Technology) in order to facilitate mobility of their B.Tech Landscape Technology graduates into the UCT MLA Programme. The UCT MLA Programme is thus very significant in terms of addressing the development challenges in South Africa and the broader developing world.
Conservation of the Built Environment
The part-time M Phil programme is designed to give professional training to satisfy the demands created by the National Heritage Resources Act (NHR Act) of 1999 which envisioned the establishment of competencies in the fields of conservation of and in the built environment, of conservation planning and of heritage resource management. The professions currently engaged in the conservation and heritage resource management components of the development industry include architecture, planning, landscape architecture, archaeology, history, law and heritage management, in particular; but the programme does also enable others with experience of conservation practise or heritage resource management to gain professional training. The programme aims to contribute to the creation of a new inter- and multi-disciplinary profession; and it acknowledges the import and impact of politics and public policy in a transforming environment, and it acknowledges and builds on the professional expertise, knowledge, skills and experience of the built environment professions.
The programme curriculum is cross-disciplinary in orientation and exposes students to the broad range of research, analytical, evaluative, planning and management issues and challenges that they are likely to encounter in the field.
The position and importance of the Geomatics Division within the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics as well as the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment and UCT in general cannot be overemphasised. UCT Geomatics is the lead institute of only two academic units in South Africa offering a degree in Geomatics, producing graduates who are the legal custodians of land administration nationally and abroad.
Geomatics as an industry is identified as a critical skill to the development of South Africa and is the only discipline which is concerned with the measurement of the Earth at all scales. Geomatics contributes spatial data acquisition, analysis and management skills to pertinent current national School of APG, Annual Report 2015 6 and international debates, including: land reform, poverty, urbanisation, climate change, water resources monitoring/management, environmental monitoring, location-based services, and many other areas requiring positioning and spatial data as integral components. By its very nature Geomatics professionals interact with a multitude of different and allied disciplines in holistic decision making processes.
The UCT Geomatics Division makes significant contributions to national policy and legislation.
The African Centre for Cities (ACC) is an interdisciplinary research centre and teaching programme focused on quality scholarship regarding the dynamics of sustainable urbanisation processes in Africa, with an eye on identifying systemic responses. It is a UCT Signature Theme, under the direction of SARCHI Chair holder Professor Edgar Pieterse. The Centre is institutionally
located in the School.
Rapid and poorly governed urbanisation in Africa points to a profound developmental and philosophical crisis. Most scholarship focuses on the development challenges but fails to provide adequate answers to reverse growing urban inequality, environmental degradation and social conflicts. There is little sustained scholarship on the existential and cultural dimensions of African urbanism. In this context it is unsurprising that there are very few qualified and appropriately trained urban professionals and activists who can manage Africa’s cities and towns. The ACC seeks to intervene into this situation by remaining rooted in context and building knowledge networks between durable research institutions across the Continent.
The ACC conducts a series of applied research programmes in Cape Town, South Africa and significant parts of Africa. The applied urban research focus is complemented with a rich academic research programme that seeks to support and enhance urban scholars at UCT and in the knowledge centres we partner with.