School of Built Environment & Development Studies

PhD research tackles informal settlements

Lecturer in the School of Built Environment and Development Studies Dr Judith Ojo-Aromokudu, graduated with her PhD in Architecture. Her research focused on what informs the spaces created in informal settlements and how residents live and carry out their daily activities within these spaces.
Dr Judith Ojo-Aromokudu

Ojo-Aromokudu conceptualises informal settlements as an interpretation of 21st century vernacular architecture, thereby adding to the body of knowledge on such architecture.

She was motivated by the similarities she observed between traditional dwellings in rural KwaZulu-Natal and those in the informal settlements. As an architect, Ojo-Aromokudu wanted to better understand the spatial language of informal settlements.

‘It was quite exciting engaging with the informal settlement dwellers and understanding their world from their perspective. Contrary to [the] opinion of non-residents, the informal settlement residents are purposeful individuals and households seeking a better life for themselves and their growing households,’ she said.

The findings suggest that informal settlement dwellings represent the beginnings of 21st century urban vernacular architecture, and that residents ascribe existential, aspirational and experimental meanings to their dwellings. Ojo-Aromokudu believes that this will be useful in future upgrading interventions.

Ojo-Aromokudu received financial support from the National Research Foundation, University Capacity Development Programme, Knowledge Interchange and Collaboration, African Center for Cities Fellowship, and the ERSC/ Newton funded ISULabantu project ( ).

She thanked her family, friends and supervisor for their support.

Ojo-Aromokudu intends to continue to interrogate the issues around informal settlements, both theoretically and from the perspective of upgrading programmes, towards creating more liveable human settlements for the urban economically marginalised. ‘How great it would be if self-help settlements are safe, more liveable and secure in all ramifications,’ she said.

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