Architecture students at FADA, UJ are exposed to different approaches to design, practice and engagement with the city of Johannesburg in ways that add depth to their investigations and broaden their understanding of the architectural profession.

They are not restricted to the formal city nor to conventional architectural practice. Unit 2 (with both first and second year students) of the Masters programme is based on these academic and professional values.

The course is based on an ethos of teaching and practice established over the years at the department and reflected in the projects graduating in the first year of the masters programme in 2012 which demonstrated a concern with education in the city, “building bridges” (metaphorically and physically), engagement with informality and architecture’s transformation potential.

Towards the end of 2014, the department entered an interesting stage of its development with the establishment of the unit system. Unit 2 will be launched in 2015.

Unit 2 will encourage the students to continue investigations in in the complex issues that are unique to Johannesburg, South Africa but that also have global relevance. The role of the unit coordinators, who will also supervise the work, will be to support self-motivated, independent investigation with a high level of relevance while also encouraging diversity and innovation. The intention is to allow for the development of unique approaches and individual identities of the designers within the group.

The 2015 year is structured in such a way as to allow for the achievement of set milestones and deliverables, but also to allow for the students to set their own path for development – the deliverables for each project will be different and will reflect the unique focus of the research and the specific demands of the site and programme. While the unit coordinators will guide the students towards achieving the requirements set in the UNIT 2 year guideline document (which is based on SACAP requirements), and encourages the students to demonstrate competence in architectural conceptualization, design and technical resolution, the UNIT 2 coordinators are also tasked to encourage independent directions of investigation and different interpretations of architecture.

UNIT 2 will continue the tradition of harnessing the existing expertise and research interests of the academics within the department – occasionally drawing on expertise from outside of the department. The UNIT 2 programme will therefore be influenced by the research themes/focus areas of the staff – this will be done in consultation and through the encouragement of research conversations and debates – with the full involvement of the students.

Unit 2 will explore the boundaries between architecture & planning, building & city and architecture & infrastructure towards a new way of designing and building in the interest of of spatial equity, access to opportunity, efficiency in design, finance, management, maintenance and implementation. Unit 2 has a strong design and technology focus.

Indeed, we suspect that the most innovative projects to emerge from the unit system, will be the ones that explore the interface between the three units. These synergies between the various units will shape the future identity of the school.