SVA MA Design Research

SVA MA Design Research, Writing & Criticism1 is a one-year graduate program2
devoted to the study of design, its contexts & consequences.
Our graduates have gone on to pursue research-related careers in publishing, education, museums, institutes, design practice, entrepreneurship, & more.3

  1. Formerly known as D-Crit
  2. About the program
  3. Applications accepted on a rolling basis. All successful candidates awarded a significant scholarship!
SVA MA Design Research

136 W 21st St, 2nd Floor

New York, NY 10011





(212) 592-2228

Under Construction – SVA MA Design Research

Olivia Coetzee

Under Construction

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
— Nelson Mandela

How we feel about other people – people from other races and social backgrounds – are constructions. To respect people is a taught construction that is often very much inspired and controlled by systematic methods of doing things.

Walls and places construct not only cities and buildings; they construct ideas. Ideas that determine mindsets and provide a subconscious way of thinking,

South African townships are constructions. A combination of informal settlements, affordable housing solutions for impoverished people and scars left over from a previous governing system. The governmental upgrading of townships converts these spaces into construction sites, constructing dignity along with new homes. The township is a creation of many different ideas, ideologies, and people, often formed and put together with various objects, bits of plank, corrugated iron, and bricks.

Together with the racial borders that previously constructed South Africa, physical boundaries were created – townships or locations – to separate different races according to skin color. Due to city planning, twenty-three years after Apartheid has ended, these spaces still unconsciously influence how many people think, it still forms a constructed barrier for many.

It is no more about being of a particular color that you are forced to live in a certain place. People who originate from less affluent homes seldom escape their place of birth and economic origin. Often, the place where one is born constructs where you will stay for the rest of your life.

In a country with one of the best human right systems, 11 national languages and plenty of respect for race and culture, challenging and breaking barriers are part of a novel tradition. For the newly constructed South African, skin color, race, and culture is celebrated. But economically and physically, people are still very divided by the walls and boundaries constructed by a previous era.