Hannah Le Roux’s full article on Iain Low’s important architectural contributions was published by uncube, read full article here.

While in self-imposed exile in Lesotho during the worst years of apartheid rule in South Africa, architect Iain Low began developing what would be a five-year body of work that celebrated the limits and opportunities of self-reliance – a model that Wits University senior lecturer Hannah Le Roux argues is as relevant today as it ever was.

Le Roux’s article for uncube magazine explores the more than 300 schools built under the Training for Self Reliance project, of which Low was part, that built the schools using World Bank loans in the 70s. “The construction system engages with ways of making that enable transitions between the colonial, old vernaculars and modern construction.” Le Roux says in the article, adding, “As a scalar, modular system, it enabled replication by draftsmen who could adapt it to different topographies and builders.”

Low’s models employed concrete block piers which were designed to accommodate either stone, site-constructed concrete blocks or clay bricks as infill, “whatever was most accessible on site” Le Roux says. The schools also made use of straightforward, simple technologies like clear sheeting for daylighting, trombe walls for passive solar heating, cross-ventilation and rainwater harvesting.

Le Roux describes the model as a “political counter-project, one that kept an eye on the situation over the border to South Africa, where apartheid was still, literally, being constructed, in the form of schools for black children that were poor mirrors of those given to whites”.