Since 2015, future architects, interior designers and students of communication and media design of Wismar´s Faculty of Architecture and Design are working on “green” alternatives for more sustainable urban structures and building typologies in South Africa, with a special focus on underdeveloped areas, in the local context referred to as "townships". Both cultural-historical and sociological context of the local population play an important role in approaching the complex subject. Local building traditions, the availability of regional and potentially more ecological building materials as well as individual user requirements impact on the search of individual solutions to emerging design challenges.

In general the students´ objective is to develop new solutions for urgently needed space, practically implemented as extensions to typical residential buildings of the state-provided, mostly uniform homes, which are currently being built in large numbers as part of South African social housing programs. The prototypes, etablished within cross-national, interdisciplinary workshops, become available for the development of local microenterprises, thus creating new job opportunities in the townships.



For the first time in February 2017, a two-week international self-building workshop took place in the Eastern Cape township of „Joe Slovo West“, near the coastal city of Port Elizabeth. Together with students from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) and Port Elizabeth TVET College, students from Wismar built an extension to a typical „Mandela“ house, based on their own design work within preceding seminary and design modules. Built mostly from recycled materials, the small building creates quality business and leisure space, complementing a small recycling business operated by a community member. The self-building activities were continued in February 2018, again forming part of a practical workshop by Wismar University of Applied Sciences and its local partners. The international student team established and implemented their own design for another extension of a typical township home. The subject of the three-week workshop phase was the implementation of a township store, in South Africa known as „Spaza Shop“, serving as a point of sale as well as a central meeting point within the community of Joe Slovo West. For the structure a timber frame was chosen, again using „green“ technologies and recycled materials to complete the building´s envelope, mainly by converting outsourced industrial pallets.



Working jointly and at eye level, the intense workhop phases have created a deeper understanding of each other´s personal background and culture, creating a strong impression of respect and friendship amonst many of the students from both continents. The successfully established international cooperation promotes technical and social skills of all participants, in particular those of the South African students involved, mostly originating from underprivileged township communities themselves. One of the key achievements of the project is those students’ professional and personal development, sharing and passing on their experience to family members and communities. Their enthusiasm and continuing volunteering contribution under the guidance of our local partner Kevin Musembi Kimwelle ensure the project´s long-term success.

Through joint project activities, the cooperation between academic partners was further developed, significantly strengthened by DAAD-support within the project "Participatory Design and Joint Action Projects for Sustainable Development", granted in 2019 for three years within its programme "Subject-Specific Partnerships with Universities in Developing Countries".



Thus supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), students from Wismar University of Applied Sciences are now offered the opportunity to spend an exchange semester at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth, jointly guided by NMU´s Chair of Human Settlements and the Department of Development Studies as well as Wismar´s Professor for Building Construction and Design. Tailor-made programmes are being held at NMU, also aiming at an efficient preparation for the next self-build project, which again will be implemented by an international students team in February of the subsequent year. In return, a group of South African students will be invited to visit Germany, partaking in workshops and “Green Building” excursions, thus strengthening the partnership by exchange of students and academics.



Joint Action Projects

After having established a German / South African partnership in 2016 and based on the success of previous academic exchange and self-building activities, a new phase of the development cooperation is now being launched. New methods of sustainable development will be further explored and implemented, supported by DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service) with funds of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), within the 3-year programme “Subject-Specific Partnerships with Universities in Developing Countries”.

Participatory Design and Joint Action Projects towards Sustainable Development Practice

This project focuses on socioeconomic and environmental aspects of sustainable development practice, exploring „low-tech“ solutions and alternative building methodologies. The multidisciplinary approach aims at activating potential in order to overcome complex social challenges. Participatory Design and the method of „Joint Action Projects“ (JAP) establish self-initiatives and -building as an educational method.

Project strategies enhance current academic curricula of the partner universities by incorporating fieldwork practice in selected demonstration units. A regular academic exchange secures the required training of qualified staff, able to apply the concept to ongoing efforts towards much needed sustainable Social Change.

A project of this nature relies on personal commitment, voluntary work and donations, in particular for building material. If you wish to support our project, your contribution on will be much appreciated. Thank you.



Donators and Friends

beck architekten + Ingenieure (Wismar), Holger Betz (Berlin / London), Confirm AG (Zürich), Füchtenkord Architekten (Langenfeld), Intewa GmbH (Aachen), Knut Göppert (Stuttgart), Lorenz Haspel (Stuttgart), Mr. and Mrs. Hoefer (Wismar), Steffen Keinert (Berlin), Wolfgang Linden (Lübeck), Volkwin Marg (Hamburg), Sigi and Hans Meder Foundation (Munich), Hubert Nienhoff (Berlin), von Rekowski und Partner mbB (Weinheim), Heinz Georg and Bettina Ruffert (Limburg), R&P RUFFERT Ingenieurgesellschaft (Limburg)

...and many more

A project of this nature relies on personal commitment, voluntary work and donations, in particular for building material. If you wish to support our project, your contribution on will be much appreciated. Thank you.