MK’s Upstairs Shack

Mizukisi Kewana, also known as MK, lives in the township of Khayalitsha on the Southern periphery of Cape Town, South Africa. He is a self-employed handyman, living alone in a double-story shack that he built himself. “Upstairs Shacks” as they are referred to by many residents of Khayalitsha, are rare. Most people occupy single-story structures built out of sub-standard materials. The government has also promised to supply quality housing for all citizens, but their brick homes are expensive, small, and slow to build. Currently they face a 2.5 million housing backlog, a number that is only growing. There is much to learn from the few residents like MK who chose to incrementally build and experiment with different forms and building processes.

This profile is part of a series of on-site interviews and architectural investigations into upstairs shacks. The series was made as part of U-TT/ETH Zurich’s Empower Shack project – an interdisciplinary research and design project that hopes to develop a new system of housing in the informal settlements of South Africa. Operating from the traditional base of architecture and urban design, we hope to develop a system that allows residents, the private sector and government authorities to address the country’s 2.5 million backlog of adequate housing.