Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies

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History of CUBES

The Centre was established in 1996 in the former Faculty of Architecture, under the name Centre for Development and Built Environment (CDBE). The initiative for establishment of the Centre came from four members of academic staff with the support by the then Vice Chancellor, Prof Colin Bundy. They felt a need for a more established research vehicle that could also enhance the community service of those involved.

After the new Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment was formed in 2001, CUBES became part of the School of Architecture and Planning and adopted its present name in 2002. By this time the Centre had successfully undertaken a range of projects including community-based research to inform the City of Johannesburg’s development of its ‘Egoli 2010’ strategy. Prof Lone Poulsen, who directed the Centre from 1999 to 2002, handed over to Mzwanele Mayekiso, senior lecturer in the School, in 2003. In 2005 Prof Alan Mabin, Head of the School of Architecture and Planning at the time, took over the acting directorship of CUBES, followed by Prof Claire Bénit-Gbaffou in January 2010, Prof Sarah Charlton in July 2013 and Prof Marie Huchzermeyer in January 2015, Prof Sarah Charlton (with Prof Claire Benit-Gbaffou in 2018), the new Head of School Prof Nnamdi Elleh in 2019 (with Prof Sarah Charlton as associate director) and Prof Marie Huchzermeyer again in 2022.

Since 2006 CUBES hosted Wits University’s research thrust on cities, providing a space for cross-disciplinary research and discussion. In 2006 and 2007 the Centre entered a revitalisation process and was reviewed as part of the quinquennial review process of the School. As an outcome CUBES was regularised in terms of the Standing Orders as the ‘Centre for Urbanism and Built Environment Studies’ in 2008. In 2013 the Centre was endorsed as part of the School’s next quinquennial review and again in 2022. In October 2023, CUBES was recognised as a Research Group by the University Research and Innovation Committee under a new University policy for research entities. This status is awarded for a five-year period, with subsequent five-year cycles being subject to review