Stella Papanicolaou, Valerie Lehabe and Maashitoh Rawoot (Architecture)
It’s about surfacing what is relevant to our context
Stella Papanicolaou is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Architecture Planning and Geomatics in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment at the University of Cape Town. She currently teaches design in the postgraduate programmes of Architecture, and Histories and Theories of Modern Movement Architecture in the undergraduate programme.
Valerie Lehabe is Stella’s teaching assistant in the history and theory course. She is a graduate from the School currently working in practice as candidate architect. They have recently been joined by a new team member, Maashitoh Rawoot, also a graduate from the School and candidate architect. Valerie and Maashitoh play a crucial supporting role in content creation and quality assurance in the production of the book and in the classroom.
In February 2019, Stella received a grant from the DOT4D project to support the development of the "Architecture of the Modern Movement in the Global South" open textbook. Through the production of the open textbook, Stella and her team aim to contribute towards a knowledge base for modern architecture from a global south perspective.
What is the problem they are trying to address using an open textbook?
Modern buildings from the global north dominate the publications referenced by architecture students and professionals in the precedent studies used to inform their design work. The team believe that the historical narratives and technological developments of modern buildings in the global south should be made more visible and accessible to students in South Africa but also to scholars worldwide. The study of these buildings offers an opportunity to investigate the role of the modern movement in the global south and how these buildings may have contributed to the colonial and apartheid agendas.
They also believe that buildings studied in the countries of origin of the students contribute to an understanding of their own identities. The dominance of European and North American examples in the literature means that South African students are often led to believe that buildings located elsewhere, and theorised by scholars from the global north, have more relevance than buildings closer to home or in similar global south contexts.
What is their authorship approach?
The authorship approach in the course involves working collaboratively with students from the second-year class, who co-create the content for the open textbook. Students explore buildings, specifically in the city of Cape Town but also more broadly in the global south, to collaboratively produce content for the textbook. The course invites the students into the authorship process and provides them with the agency to propose relevant material to be used in the textbook.
The intention is to produce an open textbook with the help of students which will function as a proof of concept and be the first in a series. The first book, which focuses on modern architecture in Cape Town, will be used to promote the concept to a network of scholars in the global south who will be invited to participate in the production of similar publications on other cities. If this comes to fruition, students will be co-creating the future books with these scholars.
The work Stella and her team do in the open textbook development process is seen as part of an attempt at decolonising curriculum and rethinking their pedagogical approach to create a more student-centred approach to teaching.