First established in 1922 by the Cape Institute of Architects as a program to prepare students for the RIBA examination, the School gained independence as an autonomous program in architecture in 1937, and moved to its present location in Centlivres building on upper campus in 1959. In addition to architecture and planning, the School has over the years embraced a broader range of fields that address and improve human environments, including landscape, urban design, conservation and geomatics.
While each program has its own specificity, the strength of the School lies in the potential of fostering cross program and cross disciplinary education and research in topics that relate to the human made modification of the environment. Be it through representing the earth, through surveying and geomatics, or planning at the regional scale, or discussing the environmental systems required to make a building function, what influences our design exercises, our debate, our making, is a strong commitment to the deployment of creative thinking and design technology towards social good. The School seeks to be a laboratory for engagement in a meaningful and critical way with its physical and social, cultural and economic context of the region and the country. The surrounding environment is seen not as a constellation of abstract sites for investigation but rather as peopled places to which the programs can respond and challenge, particularly in the light of the legacy of apartheid and its spatial manifestation.
In particular, the use of design is conducive to action that are distinct from, but complementary to, the engineering approach to problem solving. While advocating the forward-looking strategic goals of UCT, the School also invests in critically reflecting on technological innovation, its social impact and its confrontation with cultural values.
Whereas the legacy of few influential figures still pervades the institution and the curriculum, the plurality of backgrounds and voices that populate its courses today has created the conditions for change. In order to support the School’s leadership position within the country, innovation and open challenge to the legacy of any particular formal vocabulary, are vital components of the willingness to embrace transformation. The School wants its students to be equipped with more than disciplinary knowledge of their field of study, to include a set of values that underpin their thinking and actions. The School values education, learning and knowledge; imagination
and creativity; open-mindedness; diversity; perceptiveness and perseverance towards the development of individuals capacitated as active/responsible citizens in a society under change.