Tanja Winkler PhD 2006

Current Work:  Associate Professor, School of Architecture, Planning & Geomatics, University of Cape Town

I'm proud to be a SCARP graduate, for it was at SCRP that I completed, in 2006, a PhD on resident-led urban regeneration.  The focus of my PhD was on the economically stressed inner city neighborhood of Hillbrow in Johannesburg, South Africa.  It was also at SCRP that I was exposed to the works of inspirational scholars.  Prior to enrolling for a PhD at UBC, I held a post at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg.  I also worked as an urban design consultant and a municipal official in Johannesburg and London, respectively.  In 2009 I was appointed as a lecturer in the Department of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield.  After returning to South Africa in 2011, I joined the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics at the University of Cape Town, where I am currently based as an Associate Professor.

Here, my teaching and research endeavours involve two overarching, but integrated, projects, namely: critically assessing 'the voice of the poor' in public decision-making processes; and critically assessing the value of community-university engagements for the purpose of enhancing planning education in South Africa.  Both projects are underpinned by theories of social transformation, social justice, and spatial equity, while the design of these projects entails collaborative work via an explicit use of mutual-learning values.  As such, I facilitate ongoing community-university engagements with community leaders and residents of three informal settlements located in the Western Cape, and with a local NGO (CORC).  Our collective aim is to enable the in-situ 'upgrading' of informal settlements.  And by means of such engagements, students learn how to become reflective practitioners.  Students also learn how to seek out, appreciate, and respect local knowledge, while examining their own values and professional practices.

Community-university engagements further entail exposing community leaders and residents to South Africa’s complex housing and urban planning legislation and policies.  A user-friendly manual of this legislation was created, and this manual has proven to be of immense value not only to the participants of our studio-based engagements, but also to other informal settlement residents and NGOs across South Africa.  Finally, our collaborative projects are receiving the attention of local policymakers.  Two informal settlements are now officially identified by the City of Cape Town and the Provincial government as priority areas for upgrading.  Still, much of the inspiration for this type of community-based planning work was cultivated during the three years I spent at SCARP.