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CUBES comprises a number of staff members, researchers, students and affiliates.

CUBES Steering Committee

Sarah Charlton

Sarah CharltonAssociate Professor Sarah Charlton directed CUBES from July 2013 to December 2014 and is Associate Director of CUBES in 2019. She has been teaching in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits since 2003, and prior to that worked for eThekwini municipality and for the housing and development-oriented non profit organisation Built Environment Support Group (BESG). Her academic research explores the ways in which poor people make use of the city, with a particular interest in the geographies of ‘home’ and ‘work’. She has a long-standing interest and involvement in housing, and her doctorate focused on the South African government’s ‘RDP’ housing programme. Current research interests include everyday lives in the city, and the interface between development initiatives of the state and peoples’ responses to these. 


Claire Bénit-Gbaffou

Claire Benit-GbaffouProf Claire Bénit-Gbaffou was an associate professor in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits and is now at the University of Marseilles. She is interested in urban politics and governance and is passionate about building bridges between town planning, political studies and urban studies education and research. She is part of several research programmes on African cities governance, community participation and politics, and spatial justice and the city. She has published numerous papers in international journals on these issues, and recently edited a book entitled Popular Politics in South African Cities: Unpacking Community Participation. A former director of CUBES (2010-2012), she directed Yeoville Studio, a community-oriented research initiative spearheaded by the School in partnership with Yeoville community organisations. She coordinates the Practices of the State in Urban Governance research programme and convenes the multidisciplinary Master of Urban Studies (MUS) degree.

Marie Huchzermeyer

Marie HuchzermeyerProf Marie Huchzermeyer is a professor in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits. She took on the rotating CUBES directorship position from 2015-2017.

Her research has spanned Brazil, South Africa and Kenya, where she has explored questions of policy and rights as they relate to informal settlements. She has also explored housing more broadly, and conducted a study on large-scale private rental stock across continents and across centuries, comparing in particular 19th century Berlin and current Nairobi.

Her current research is on the right to the city theoretically, and more practically the intersection between planning and human rights with its implication for informal settlements and access to housing.


Aly Karam 

Prof Aly Karam is an associate professor in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits. He lectures in the areas of housing, urban economics, research methods and planning techniques. Aly started his career as an architect, established his own practice, worked on projects in Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, culminated by winning a National Design Competition in Egypt. He then obtained a Master degree in Architectural Management from the University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas, and then earned the PhD in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Aly started his teaching career in Egypt and has since taught in different capacities in the United States, Canada, Zimbabwe, and currently in South Africa. He ran the Rosettenville Studio in 2013 and was interested, in the aftermath of Yeoville Studio, in working on integrated trading in Rosettenville, where formal shop keepers are interested in piloting a local management plan to integrate informal traders, currently harassed by the city.

Solam Mkhabela

Solam Mkhabela was educated at Waterford Kamhlaba, UWCSA, the Massachusetts College of Art, Boston, The Cooper Union, New York and the University of Cape Town. He holds a BAS degree in Architecture (UCT) and a Masters Degree of City Planning and Urban Design (UCT). In 2002 he co-founded blacklinesonwhitepaper, a design collaborative recognized through invitation to international events like the Rotterdam Biennale of Architecture, Cologne Plan5, the Ordos project in China, African Perspectives in Casablanca and winning competition entries. Solam has also served as an urban design consultant for the Inner City Transport Study in Johannesburg and for SHIFT's professional task team’s guidelines for neighbourhood development and informal settlements upgrading. Solam will be coordinating the Braamfontein City Studio from 2016.

CUBES Researchers and Affiliates

Anisa Desai 

Anisa Desai is the research administration coordinator in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits. Formerly a researcher in the School's NRF Research Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, she provided administrative support and organised weekly postgraduate lunchbox seminars and the Southern African City Studies Conference in 2014. Her research interests include corporate head office location in the Gauteng City Region, migrant and migration issues in South Africa as well as the use of space by the South African Indian community. Anisa holds a BSc in Town and Regional Planning and MSc in Development Planning, both from Wits.

Kirsten Doermann 

Kirsten Doermann was educated in Germany, RWTH Aachen, Switzerland, ETH Zürich and the Netherlands, Berlage Institute. She graduated from Aachen with a professional degree in architecture (Dipl. Ing), and from Amsterdam in 1998 with a postgraduate Master in Architecture. After working for the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg, she joined Wits in 2008 as design lecturer in the School of Architecture & Planning. The projects she has been part of have been dealing with issues of housing in changing sub/urban contexts, migration and the perception of the city. Kirsten ran the Rosettenville Studio in 2014. 

Nqobile MalazaNqobile Malaza

Nqobile Malaza is a lecturer in urban environmental interpretation and planning theory and philosophy in the School of Architecture & Planning and a full-time PhD candidate. She is interested in gendered planning, professional ethics and philosophy, the role of development economics in planning, spatial planning theory and spatial justice, and identity and the city.

Garth Klein

Garth Klein is a senior lecturer in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits and researches philosophy and theory of planning, socio-political relationship to design, and planning education. He coordinates the Master in Urban Design (MUD) degree in the School.

Neil Klug

Neil Klug is a 50% academic in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits and 50% planning practitioner with his own planning consultancy. This enables him to bring practice experience into the classroom and gain theoretical knowledge that informs his practice. His research interests include spatial planning frameworks, Land Use Management Systems, land management on the periphery of cities, and informal settlement upgrading.

Tanya Zack 

Tanya ZackDr Tanya Zack is a Town and Regional Planner (Tanya Zack Development Planners) with 20 years experience in working in municipal, private and nongovernmental environments in housing, planning and development issues in Johannesburg. She holds a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand. Her work has included: the preparation of the urban component of a second economy strategy for the Presidency; research projects focused on development issues in Johannesburg; research into urban management in Hillbrow and Berea; co-authorship of a Bad Buildings Strategy for the City, and co-authorship of the Inner City Roadmap. She managed the AFTRAX project for Wits, and supported CUBES activities in her personal capacity. 

Post-Doctoral Researchers

Obvious Katsaura

Dr Obvious Katsaura studies community security governance – how various CBOs engage in a micro-politics of governance and mobilize space to govern security. His current research interests lie broadly in urban and regional sociology with a specific focus on religion and african urbanisms, violence and urban safety, urban politics and governance, minority groups and city life. He also has research interests in political sociology and conflict minerals in Africa. He is currently working on a 3 year research project entitled “Violence and Enchanted Urbanisms: Magico-Religion, Ritualism and Mediation of Violence in Johannesburg” with financial support from the Volkswagen Foundation.

Kristen Kornienko

Dr Kristen Kornienko is a Fullbright Fellow in South Africa and postdoctoral fellow in the School of Architecture & Planning at Wits. Her current research is titled "A Comparative View of the Post-Colonial Modalities of Power and Influence on Informal Housing Consolidation within Indigenous Populations of South Africa and the Americas". She is interrogating the mechanisms of spatial and social control inherent in the processes of colonialism/ apartheid and how they have effectively blurred relationships of identity with indigenous peoples’ cultures, histories and connection to community, land and housing.

Interns and Visiting Researchers

Jeanne BouyatJeanne Bouyat

Jeanne Bouyat is a full-time PhD candidate based at the Centre de Recherches Internationales (CERI), Sciences Po University, Paris and is a visiting scholar at CUBES. She was also hosted at CUBES as an intern between January and May 2015 while doing her research project for her Masters dissertation in Political Science. Her PhD research topic is around local public action of education and the (re)shaping of otherness: exploring teaching and administrative practices in secondary school in Gauteng and the Western Cape.

Sara Maani

Sara MaaniSara Maani joined CUBES as an intern in January 2016. She studied sculpture in the faculty of fine art at Tehran University in Iran, and also has degrees in architecture and social studies from Italy. She has been part of a number of art exhibitions in Iran, as well as organized a number of art events. In Italy she was part of an organization focusing on the cultural integration of students staying in university residences. In Germany she was involved in the refugee movement.

Sara is currently working on her architecture master thesis on inner city Johannesburg, which forms part of an MSc Architecture degree being undertaken in Italy, and partly in Germany under the Erasmus programme. Her dissertation focus is on the socio-spatial aspects of the daily practices of people. 

Paola PiscitelliPaola Piscitelli

Paola Piscitelli was hosted at CUBES as an intern from November to December 2015. She is a PhD student in Spatial Planning and Territorial Policies at the University IUAV of Venice. She holds a degree in Urban Planning and Policy Design from the Politecnico di Milano and a Masters degree from the same University. Her research is about the translocal territories and spatialities of Mozambican cross-border traders between Johannesburg and Maputo.

Fernando Maldonado

Fernando MaldondoFernando Maldonado was hosted at CUBES as an intern from July to September 2015 while conducting fieldwork for his research project, which aims to compare patterns arising from public policy enforced by the executive management of FIFA in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups with models of urban development. Fernando is a PhD candidate in the Faculty of Economics at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. His doctoral supervisor is Giovanni Allegretti, who is a visiting scholar in the School of Architecture & Planning.

Fernando holds a Master degree in Sociology of Law from the Oñati International Institution for the Sociology of Law, as well as a law degree from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Other Visitors to CUBES

  • Christoph Haferburg is a visiting associate professor in the School of Architecture & Planning and is affiliated with CUBES. He is an urban geographer in the Institute for Geography at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Germany.
  • Yohei Miyauchi (Centre for Asian Area Studies, Rikkyo University, Tokyo, Japan) was a visiting researcher at CUBES from February to August 2014 while conducting PhD research on spatial transformations of industrial zones in inner city Johannesburg through anthropological and geographical perspectives.
  • Elisabeth Ericksen visited CUBES as an intern from June to August 2014, and supported various ongoing initiatives including work with Johannesburg street traders organisations and the Rosettenville Studio.
  • Chloe Malavolti was hosted at CUBES as an intern while she completed a six-month internship in the Housing Department of the City of Johannesburg. She is currently doing her Master programme Governing the Large Metropolis in urban affairs at the Sciences Po University in Paris with interests in housing and living conditions of inner city residents in Johannesburg.
  • Astrid Ley was a visiting senior researcher at CUBES from 2012-2015 and is a senior lecturer at TU Berlin, Germany.
  • Ariane Lamarsaude was hosted as an intern at CUBES from April to July 2012 while a Masters student at the University Paris 1-Sorbonne, ENS.
  • Chloe Buire was hosted by CUBES in 2012 as a postdoctoral candidate.
  • Robin Bloch (Wolverhampton University and GHK London) conducted numerous visits to CUBES as a collaborator on the Global Suburbanisms project.
  • Melanie Samson was a visiting PhD candidate at CUBES from York University, Toronto from 2009 to 2012.
  • Pauline Guimard was hosted by CUBES in January-April 2009, March-August 2010, February-May 2011 and August-September 2011 as a visiting PhD candidate from UPOND, France.