iThemba Walkway

Safe and accessible public open spaces are a vital element of our cities and hold the potential to act as important friendly and inclusive urban spaces for learning, exchange, and practice. Public walkways (passages/laneways) are some of the most neglected and dangerous public spaces in the city of Cape Town, South Africa. 

There is a small, neglected walkway or access passage that connects the roads of Dora Tamana Road (old NY89) and Lolo Mkonto Road (old NY57) in Gugulethu - commonly referred to as NY57/89 paveway, but now identifies as the iThemba Walkway. The iThemba Walkway is a catalytic community-driven public space upgrading project that demonstrates active & responsible co-design and participatory development opportunities in Gugulethu, Cape Town. 

The iThemba Walkway forms the entry point and the start of the physical upgrading project. In March 2021, when visited on a virtual urban walk, the space was covered by all sorts of waste and left-over rubbish. By April 2021, the local community cleaned the walkway and created an accessible passage for the school children. In November 2021, a co-design workshop was conducted. In December 2021, the iThemba Walkway project emerged, consisting of multiple partners: UCT APG Urban Design, Africa Unite, Bazart, Movement for Change and Social Justice (MCSJ), Nobantu Primary School, Gugulethu Urban Farming Initiative, (GUFI) Community Action Group (CAN), Tekano, Ward 39 Councillor and local Street Committees (NY57,89 and 91). In 2022, as a partnership, we ran a series of co-design workshops around safe, inclusive and friendly spaces, linked to SDGs 5, 11, 13 and 16, as chosen by the community and stakeholders or iThemba Walkway. The outcome was a series of small but impactful implementation projects, such as wall paintings, Christmas lights, the start of a memory wall and on-going projects, such as co-produced benches, signs and a future outdoor movie wall. 

iThemba Walkway is not seen in isolation. The University of Cape Town (UCT) Urban Design unit is conducting ongoing research and upgrade on walkways across Gugulethu as part of an urban design teaching project (urban design Studio Hope) and research project (Cities for Change: The Walkway Project) under the theme of urban resilience and safer cities. 

The Walkway Project aims to upgrade urban walkways as strategic urban interventions that can raise awareness and highlight the impact of urban resilience, safety and inclusive and friendly public spaces. The project exposes the impact of waste dumping and water mismanagement along a broader network of neglected, unsafe walkways that connect to the local waterways and the Lotus River Canal in Gugulethu, Cape Town. The overarching aim of the project is to re-imagine forgotten urban spaces by transforming existing walkways into inclusive, friendly, colourful and safe places for all.

“Some people around the area are so much triggered by the looks of iThemba Walkway wishing to challenge the municipality to deliver services to all walkways in Gugulethu. iThemba is a living example, meaning communities must initiate responsibility to look after their spaces and surroundings for better living. Let’s make it possible and make history on that Walkway." (Phumzile, December 2022).



Images and Plans


Technical Description

The iThemba Walkway uses low technology and recycled materials as part of a public space upgrading strategy. The focus on materiality and technology is around small change (low budget, minimal soft infrastructure investment, low inputs) for big impact (safe and activated urban space). Some materials have been donated to the iThemba Walkway partnership (paint, trees, bricks) which are reimagined into functional and low maintenance approaches. 

Key to the technical aspects remains grounded in coproducing maintenance plans, which are largely dependent on the surrounding residents and active participants in the project. Even electrical access remains tricky and small donations have been provided by community residents and partners for workshop days (to access power to allocation functioning of power tools, music to inspire participants, loudspeaker and projector use etc.). Where possible, lazer cutting of recycled plastic has been completed by students at the workshop in the School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, combining low technology and skills in a process of exchange and collaboration. Trees are watered by a local community resident with the help of school children from Nobantu Primary School. 





Wrixon Mpanangombe, Siyabulela Ntuntwana, Soini Nangula, Ayanda Made, Naledi Holtman, Malose Malapile, Lungelo Mthethwa, Hanno Coetsee, Sahlah Davids, Yann Friederich, Hylton Goatley, Ilunga Divine, Simon Lapinski, Emma Macarthur, Vahira Moodley, Kekeletso Ramodibe, Julia Uys, Lerys Hendricks, Patrick Hope-Bailie, Daniel Masuba, Leigh Maurtin, Thato Motlhaping, Tuwilika Shaimemanya, Karla Stander, Christopher van der Walt, Kirsty Westcott
iThemba Walkway Partnership
Xolile Ndzoyi
Collaborating Organisations
Project Implementation
iThemba Walkway residents
Project Implementation
Africa Unite NPC
Project Implementation
Bazart NPC
Movement for Change and Social Justice
City of Cape Town
Gugulethu Urban Farming Initiative
Community Action Group
Ward 39 Councillor ( Logistics )
ACU Climate Resilience Challenge Grant
Association of Commonwealth Universities
Painting of murals as SDG Climate Workshop
City of Cape Town
URC Project Grant
University of Cape Town

Academic Discipline(s)
Landscape Architecture
10 Students
Urban Design
10 Students
Academic Level(s)
Academic Facts

Site / Structure Dimension
iThemba Walkway is 50m in length and 6m wide (total 300m²).
There are 16 walkways in total of similar dimensions which form part of the Walkway Project.
5850 €
2928 €
In Kind
R200 (€10) was contributed by a local street resident for access to electricity for the workshop in 2023 for the implementation of the memory wall. Many partners provide in-kind contributions to attend co-design workshops, clean-up campaigns, and implementation days.
Other Budget
Implementation has been gradual over the past 2 years maximizing budget for research in all 16 walkways and small implementation projects rather than material costs per se. Labour costs have been focused on training and up-skilling local residents.
Project Start
April 2021
Length of Preparation Phase
Length of Planning/ Design Phase
Length of Construction Phase
Additional comments
The project is ever evolving, but the focus is on the relationship between the Master of Urban Design Programme (finance and time related to teaching academic year) and on-going research since 2021, as part of the Walkway Project. iThemba Walkway is the focus as one of the implemented projects through the relationship of a teaching studio and community engagement. The project is on-going.
Other Discipline
Urban Design
Transportation of Skill
Project Context
Other Project Context
Project Type
Care / Education | Environmental Protection | Sports / Play / Recreation
Construction Methods/Techniques