A Designer Dreams Up a Fossil-Free Houseboat for a Post-Apocalyptic Future

Tshepo Mokholo is an architect-turned-designer whose goal is to bring about inner city change through better design.
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South Africa's Tshepo Mokholo has imagined a fossil-fuel-free houseboat for a future nomadic laborer who might travel by river to the city they work in and return home for the weekend to be with their family. The hypothetical setting for Mokholo’s houseboat is the Apies River in Tshwane, the administrative capital of South Africa.

Tshepo Mokholo is one of Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives 2016. See the full collection of featured South African creatives here.

This design is Tshepo Mokholo’s interpretation of a third-year design project given to him while studying architecture at the University of Pretoria. Students were asked to imagine a dystopian future free from fossil fuels and oil, then devise something for this apocalyptic world.

"This project required us to apply our minds beyond the conventional. Designing in a non-existent context takes away any dependence on precedents and forces you to become creative," says Mokholo.

Solving the propulsion issue was critical for Mokholo. Without the use of a combustion engine, getting a boat up and down a river would prove difficult. 

"I proposed the use of two cylinders, one inside the other, separated by a bearing. The same principles would apply as applied to magnetic levitation. The outer cylinder would rotate whilst the internal cylinder remained still."

Solving problems, even within fictional scenarios, is what drives Mokholo. Through architecture, he says, he wants to bring about social change. Mokholo is especially interested in the inner city areas that were once hubs of commerce and activity.

Mokholo is adamant that Tshwane and Johannesburg are brimming with modernist architectural gems sitting idle, and he feels these buildings should be re-commissioned and utilized rather than left abandoned.

According to Mokholo, effective design can be used to breathe new energy into inner cities without gentrifying residents. By using and understanding what is already there and building on it, he feels we can prevent old, half-abandoned areas from becoming hotspots for crime and poverty. 

He adds that cities are the meeting points for people. By making them more accessible, stigmas about social and cultural barriers will be broken.

As an architecture student, Mokholo has garnered exceptional graphic design skills. He currently works under his own brand, Creatif Studio, while seeking full-time employment. He lives by words instilled by his first-year lecturer, Nico Botes: "As an architect, you are a designer, and as the designer, you must be able to design anything." Mokholo adds, "Our designs are only as meaningful as our ability to present and express those ideas, which we do through the graphic language of design."

Mokholo also spends his time experimenting with furniture design, though this is still a passion project. He is yet to build something tangible, which he attributes to a lack of resources. He finds inspiration from modernist architects who not only designed buildings, but also their interiors and furniture, as furniture is the custodian of the space it occupies. 


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