Welcome to Platform100

A warm welcome to all our followers, from me, Helga Fernandes, an architect and built environment professional and acting CEO of Platform100.

Helga Fernandes

As a young professional in pursuit of the creation of equitable cities with shared access to urban amenities – I have joined the Platform100 team to drive and amplify the conversation on spatial transformation by youth in the built environment with the aim of developing robust and innovative multi-scalar approaches to city making and governance. 

African cities are rapidly changing with an urgent call for built environment professionals to heed the response by youth and join in creating a nexus of socio-political and ideological beliefs that include indigenous stories, and cultural understandings of territories, and ways of living that ought to be included in the city-making process. We require a more inclusive approach with a larger demographic to contribute to the overall governance and experience of city-living, if we are to create liveable and loveable cities for all.

Born and bred in Johannesburg, my cosmopolitan upbringing made me question how African cities are experienced and what drives individual aspiration in building resilient communities. My ancestral background layered my thinking to the acute indifference to communities of colour and their lived experiences – particularly with regard to spatial inequalities and access to equitable, functional, and pleasant city experiences.  I often wondered what the world would look like without the “have” and “have nots”. One often associates impoverished communities with limited access, yet they remain largely ingenious in their economic and practical solutions to complex and injustice practices. My projects and professional experience between both the public and private sector have included a focus on human-centered approaches to design and the built environment. One of our projects that has most inspired me with regard to stakeholder engagement and citizen-led planning is the Bertrams Community Project. To learn more about me, you can view my online profile

I believe it is imperative that our communication strategies include diverse voices with an emphasis on finding common ground in order to provide African communities with just opportunities as we search for sustainable, long-term solutions in city planning. 

The Platform100 agenda of multi-stakeholder engagement for built environment solutions, an agenda that includes the voices and input of a diverse demographic of a variety of cultures and ages with a focus on individuals who have been subject to segregated city and legislative practices will ensure our ability to truly advance the agenda of spatial transformation.

In pursuit of creating networks and learning environments that are accessible and equitable, I intend to contribute to the Platform100 team by driving change in the dialogue and representation of how our African cities are governed, ensuring collaboration at all levels. Our goal is to utilise technical skills to implement practical and sustainable solutions for our African cities, providing tools to assist humans to manage their environments and in so doing contribute to sustainable and inclusive growth.

Platform100 is a registered NPO established in partnership with architect Mokena Makeka of Dalberg and Prof Amira Osman, the SARChI: DST/NRF/SACN Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive Change in the Built Environment).  We are proud to announce the support of newly appointed directors: Prof Edgar Pieterse, (Director, African Centre for Cities), Prof Finzi Saidi (HOD, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Johannesburg), Dr Philippa Tumubweinee (School of Architecture, Planning, and Geomatics, University of Cape Town), Prof Philip Harrison, (SARChI Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, University of Witwatersrand), Dr  Sechaba Maape, (Senior Lecturer, University of Witwatersrand), Prof Hope Hangwelani (SARChI Chair, Inclusive-Cities, University of Kwa-Zulu Natal), Prof Marie Huckerzermeyer, (Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Witwatersrand) , Dr Emmanuel Nkambule (Senior Lecturer, Dept of Architecture and Industrial Design, Tshwane University of Technology) and Prof Noeleen Murray (Dept Anthropology and Archeology, University of Pretoria. We look forward to their invaluable contributions and to sharing their work with you in the future. We are also joined this year by communication strategist Thandi O’Hagan whose role is to assist in disseminating information and identifying potential partnerships. 

Platform100 will support inclusive growth of Africa’s built environment by driving work across four streams each with its own potential activities namely: Knowledge – the development of  knowledge and data in the built environment through creative research; Communication – the creation, and sharing of this knowledge through strategic tools;  Engagement – the strengthening of civic and multi-stakeholder engagement for the development of built environment solutions, and Implementation – the facilitation of actionable and implementable built environment solutions. Through public thought leadership, civic engagement, and creative research in the built environment, Platform100 intends to accelerate progressive policy evolution towards liveable and loveable cities.

Welcome to Platform100, I look forward to learning and working together. In this, our first newsletter, we introduce you to some of the work conducted since we launched this initiative in 2020, please do read on and to join and contribute to the #spatialtransformation conversation, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Healthy buildings, Healthy Cities Lab – a pioneering research initiative from South Africa

The impact of buildings on human health is profound, and has a direct cost impact on performance and output for its users. In May this year, we launched the Healthy Buildings, Healthy Cities Lab (HBHC) to support research and approaches to design thinking on the current COVID-19, and on related disease burdens in South Africa and globally.

The HBHC Lab is a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the SARChI Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive Change in the Built Environment) and the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT). The objective of the lab is to support and develop Healthy Building design guidelines, coursework and curricula in South Africa. Currently, there is no healthy building laboratory in South Africa. The CSIR and TUT are partnering to drive this new frontier in construction and design at building and city level. The initiative is directly aligned with the CSIR Smart Places Cluster output and skill set and will enable researchers to develop course work, presentations and disseminate knowledge.

The ground-breaking research lab was launched with the first Healthy Buildings, Healthy Cities (HBHC) symposium hosted by the Pretoria Institute of Architects and co-ordinated by Dr Jako Nice (CSIR) and Prof Amira Osman (TUT). The international line up of speakers included: Dr Gwynne Mhuireach (University of Oregon, USA), Prof Peter Russell (Tsinghua University, China), Mr Philip Astley (University of London, UK) and Prof Magda Mostafa (The American University of Cairo, Egypt). The symposium explored the integration of health-related concepts into the traditional architectural tertiary education, building landscape and city making. An integration that is core to changing the paradigm and skill that the current and next generation of architects require. 

The research themes and intended outcomes of the HBHC Lab are listed below.

Research Themes

  1. Climate & Health impact on the built environment
  2. Built Environment Technology applications in assessing buildings, neighbourhoods and cities
  3. Buildings and Health meta-studies
  4. Appropriate Ventilation solutions
  5. Re-Imaging future architecture with increased urbanization – healthy cities and buildings
  6. Core elements
    • Air Quality, Ventilation, Lighting, Sound, Water quality, Safety, Moisture, Thermal environment, spatial metrics, people
    • Building Microbiomes


  1. Healthy Building policies for South African buildings, neighbourhoods and cities,
  2. Architecture publications for Africa and South Africa
  3. Development of a healthy building course for post-graduate Architecture students
  4. Development knowledge and transfer critical need scarce skill to the next generation of building designers
  5. Masters and Doctorate aligned research projects

Youth Reimagining Climate-Resilient Spaces for Tomorrow at EXPO DUBAI 2020

“We don’t live in the past, the past lives within us.” Charles Perkins.

In celebration of #WorldCitiesDay, Platform100 founders Amira Osman and Mokena Mokeka (Dalberg), partnered with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), to invite architecture, design and urban planning students from universities across the globe to submit 2 minute videos that expressed their bold and creative ideas for future spaces. 6 of these submitted visions were selected and presented at the final session of the #WorldCitiesDay Flagship event: Programme for People and Planet held at the EXPO 2020 Dubai on Sunday 31 October. Amira and Mokena joined Mr Alan Vallance (RIBA), Ms Sarah Lynn Rees (Monash University) and Mr Tan Szue Hann (World Cities Summit) as key-note speakers for the session.

“We, as stewards of the planet have a duty to the estimated 8,5 billion people that will inhabit our planet by 2030”, claimed Mokena as he opened the session highlighting the urgency, the agency and the importance of including the voices of youth as we strive for ecological justice in a future, for which we do not yet, have a template.

The important discussion about how we plan for an uncertain future was sparked by the viewing of the 6 ‘winning’ video submissions.

Prof Osman began the discussion with the key message echoed through all of Platform100’s work this year: “To change practice we need to change thinking.” Design can make a difference she argued but we have put so much emphasis on growth that we’ve forgotten the power of simplicity. Amira called for a return to our heritage of simple and elegant building principles that inherently reflect our relation to the natural environment. If, for example, we begin by correctly orientating buildings, there’s less need for a reliance on smart/advanced tech and then the tech we do select plays a more important role, enhancing good design. Not building in relation to the natural environment is, she claimed, poor design!

Sarah Lynn Rees continued with the call to remember cultural heritage by emphasising the importance of including indigenous voices in urban planning and in that way ensuring that all residents are able to identify and see themselves reflected in our cities. Not from a human-centric position but from an understanding that humans are too, a part of the system. When we plan and build we need to consider the whole system and that includes building for the natural (fauna and flora) inhabitants of an area. Designing from this holistic standpoint means we move away from seeing landscape as ornamental, to seeing landscape as habitat, we move towards an understanding of the role that architecture can play in nurturing the natural environment. ‘I take care of country and country takes care of me.”

Sarah further cautioned that despite the fact that we need to act fast, it is critical that we don’t design with a crisis mentality. Designing in a panic often leads to forgetting our ethical considerations. She posits that we need to change where we start the conversation, beginning not from the place of “we have a problem” but to start rather from an acknowledgement of the values and understandings of the communities we are building with, to commit to co-designing in collaboration with the communities we are serving.

Mr Hann pointed out the sombre truth that in the world of development there has always been an assumption that we are designing for a future that will be better than the past. We have seen from our present that neither our present nor our future is necessarily better than our past. In fact, our current future looks bleak and that requires a resetting of our education system. As architects, designers, planners rather than imagining how we design for a better future, our pragmatic approach needs to be how do we mitigate and lessen the impact of our current trajectory.

Our talks need to become more uncomfortable for we do have to act and we have to act now contended Allan Vallance. We need to harness the passion of architects and their training as problem-solvers.

Along with the calls to include other voices as co-creators, to incorporate vernacular wisdom, coupled with new technologies and new modes of measurement there is an imperative to shift environment from the side lines of architectural education to a position of core curriculum. As professionals we need to dream, to aspire, to bring back our histories and our heritage and we need to speak the language of government, we need to be able to translate our dreams into doable action, into implementable policy.

Amira’s closing statement is a challenge and an overdue prompt to all built environment professionals and practitioners: “If there is no equality, there is no resilience … no matter how smart a city might look!”

Congratulations to the students from the 3 RIBA accredited universities: Abu Dhabi University (UAE), University Teknologi (MARA) (UiTM) (Perak Malaysia), and Universidad Catolica de Colombia (Colombia). We were particularly proud of the 3 powerful and visually interesting South African presentations, all from the University of the Free State. Well done on the collaborative effort!

The full day’s events are captured in this online video. The youth session begins at 7:01.

Congratulations to all the students whose presentations were showcased at the World Expo.

  • Wilandri Bornmann, Kayla de Jager, Elani Engelbrecht, Su-Mari Gouws, Melissa Olivier, Tefo Phatlane Renier Veitch, Chris van Heerden, Meghan Pretorius, Marita Kotzé, Michail Cloete, JC Schoeman, Teresa Theunissen, Jacquelien Fourie, Lielie Fourie, Michelle VD Rijst (University of the Free State)
  • Alicia Horn, Anya Strydom, Arran Wood, Cayla-Jade Hallowell, Ellene Naude, Emihle Bunu Gert Ferreira, Heinrich Hofmeyr, Jean-Marie Bignaut, Lijani Griessel, Lize du Toit, Lugho Mkukwana, maliza Adendorff, Maryam Ismail, Rynard Lareman, Thereza de Klerk (University of the Free State)
  • Bernard Maree, Dapper De Wet, Andreas Badenhorst, Herman Viljoen, Drian Mostert, Janka Van Zyl, Mieke Badenhorst, Haino Vermeulen, Jak Prinsloo, Marike Louw, Chere Claase, Khanyisile Bodlani, Karabo Mosime, Phungwazana Monapati, Khalipha Radebe, Kgolo Mojela, Nzuzo Mjiyakho (University of the Free State)

  • Maya Wacily (Abu Dhabi University)

  • Laura Junca (Catholic University of Colombia)
  • Nur Rasyidah binti Mohd Nizam (Universiti Teknologi Mara Seri Iskandar)

Architecture Rising #Soaring21 SACAP Stakeholder Convention

“How can the architectural profession contribute to the creation of a more equitable society? What influence can the architectural profession have on strategic high-level decision-making to impact spatial transformation? How can the architectural profession achieve human(e) settlements that are more equitable, beautiful and functional?” These were the questions posed by @amiraosman0 in the panel discussion, she moderated at the annual SACAP Stakeholder convention held online in August 2021.

The exploration of how architecture can best serve cities included an African, a South African and an Irish/European perspective with panelists Vinesh Chintaram, Kay-Lee Cupido, Ciaran Mackel, Ntsindiso Charles Nduku and Cheryl Walters

In the productive and heartfelt discussion on the role of the architecture profession in shaping urban environments, Cheryl Walters pertinently pointed out that, “If a place can work for women and children (be safe, livable, lovable) … then it can work for anyone!”

Ciaran Mackel highlighted both the capacity and the responsibility of architects to contribute to socio-spatial transformation: “Architects are well-versed in understanding the forces and mechanisms that provide and build good cities and neighbourhoods and there is urgency, everywhere, that we use our skills to help deliver quality of life and livelihood for our fellow-citizens.”

Earlier in the conference, Platform100 Director and the masterful MC for the day, Mokena Makeka challenged the industry, as a profession based on measurement to consider how we measure the quality of our outputs. “how do we measure our contribution to Liveable and Loveable urban environments?”

Platform100 were proud sponsors of the We are SACAP stakeholder convention, a conference that Luyanda Mpahlwa described as an unprecedented meeting between architects, industry, government and policy makers, an opportunity to be harnessed for the beginning of more conversations.

#soaring21 #architecturerising #spatialtransformation #urbanequity

Institutional Transformation – South African Institute of Architecture calls for “many” voices

“The problems of class, race, education and gender are not outside in the world in which architects intervene but they are also internal to our professional and learning institutions.” Tariq Toffa. As Tariq further argues, “the numbers that show the lack of transformation in our profession are not just numbers – we need to look how the lack of representation of different voices impacts on architecture as a discipline, a profession, a practice.”

We consider the transformation of built environment institutions as being key towards the transformation of thinking, teaching and practice – and ultimately the transformation of space. It is in this light that we welcome and celebrate the inauguration of Sikhumbuzo Mtembu as the first African president of the 120-year-old professional institution, the Kwazulu-Natal Institute of Architects (SAIA KZN). The longest serving, vice-president, Mtembu is also one of the youngest presidents to hold this office. Congratulations Sikhumbuzo on this new role, we honour your commitment to bringing growth and change to the architectural profession.

We’d also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Prof Amira Osman on her inauguration as the Vice President of the South African Institute of Architecture (SAIA). This year, Prof Osman facilitated one of the first of a series of Transformation Webinars hosted by SAIA. The aim of this series is to “…create a platform to initiate discussions around the transformation of our profession… and to start conversations on a difficult, but necessary, and long-neglected topic … Our hope is that this series can kick-start and inspire SAIA to travel a transformative journey”.  Amira hailed this initiative as a “bold and positive move that may help in making the profession more representative, inclusive and thus better align the South African architectural profession with the broader socio-economic conditions of our country”. Read Amira and Tariq Toffa’s Reflections on the SAIA Transformation Webinars 2021.

Photo: Patrick Smith, the outgoing president handing over the 120-year-old Chain of Office to the newly elected president Sikhumbuzo Mtembu, picture taken by ODMedia: Geoff Redman

Cities, Space and Power – Changing the Conversation in the Built Environment

“If we avoid the difficult conversations, they will perpetuate and be repeated through our profession and our practices.” Tariq Toffa at the book launch of Cities, Space and Power. A book aimed at facing the difficult conversations and changing the dialogue in the Built Environment.

Cities, Space and Power is the first volume of the book series The Built Environment in Emerging Economies. The series edited by Prof Amira Osman was conceptualised to give airtime to the voices, projects and thinking that were not getting a platform through main stream channels. As a scholarly book, it intends to transform academic thinking.

Platform100 was proud to launch this first volume at the annual We are SACAP stakeholder convention in a panel discussion with authors Prof Ricardo Sanín-Restrepo, Tariq Toffa and Prof Denise Morado Nascimento.  The session was moderated by Prof Osman and Mr Gareth Wall with commentary from Prof Christina Schade (Visiting professor at Residency in Architecture and Urban Planning and Engineering, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil) and Prof Nnamdi Elleh, Head of School, Wits University – School of Architecture and Planning

 “We hope that this book series helps re-conceptualise the expectation of what countries of emerging economies are, and how they may evolve with specific reference to the built environment.” Amira Osman.

To download a copy of the AOSIS open access publication follow this link: https://books.aosis.co.za/index.php/ob/catalog/book/159

Watch the full recording of the book launch here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist…

#changingtheconversation #spatialtransformation

THE CITY IS [NOT] A TREE: The Urban Ecologies of Divided Cities – ABSTRACT DEADLINE 1 FEBRUARY 2022

Urban scholars from the disciplines of Architecture, Planning, Built Environment, Social/Political Science, Economics, Design are invited to submit abstracts for the multidisciplinary conference exploring the urban ecologies of Divided Cities. Deadline for abstract submission is 1 February 2022.

THE CITY IS [NOT] A TREE aims to create awareness of the problems that cause spatial, physical, political, social, economic, racial and religious divisions in cities. The intention is to deepen our understanding of both the reasons and the implications for the divisions as well as to conceptualise a rigorous approach to healing these divisions and transforming our urban spaces. The objective is to involve developers, local authorities, and communities in the conference conversation.

We are looking for original and brave contributions from within contexts experiencing deep divisions, as well as related concerns from around the globe; contributions which challenge preconceived ideas and the status quo where they pose a challenge to our humanity. Existing divisions and inequalities have been magnified worldwide by the pandemic, making the relevance of the research even greater now than ever before.

In addition to strengthening research of divided cities, the purpose of the conference is to explore the different approaches, tools and possibilities that may be learnt from sharing between a variety of research disciplines and city stake holders.

As a collaborative and inter-disciplinary project, THE CITY IS [NOT] A TREE is interested in the imaginative and multi-stranded confluence of memory, history, and social and political contexts, helping to construct new physical, social and symbolic ground on which to build liveable and loveable cities.

The official language of the conference will be English. For more on the conference theme and sub-themes and to submit an abstract, download the full Conference Brochure.

Abstracts and papers must follow the format provided here: DIVIDED CITIES: INSTRUCTIONS FOR AUTHORS.

Criteria for abstract submissions include:

  • Relevance to the conference theme and objectives
  • Originality of material
  • Academic rigour
  • Contribution to knowledge

All abstracts will be double-blind, peer-reviewed by an appointed review panel. Authors of accepted abstracts will be invited to submit full papers, which will also be double, blind, peer-reviewed. This is to comply with the requirements for subsidy and accreditation by the South African Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) of South Africa. The review process followed by the DIVIDED CITIES: SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE will guarantee the academic quality of both what is presented at the conference and what is published in the proceedings.

The conference taking place in July 2022 is a collaboration between the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the International Experts for Research Enrichment and Knowledge Exchange (IEREK).