The Bartlett School of Architecture


Huda Tayob

Huda Tayob | PhD thesis | Hidden histories and Invisible Spaces: Migrant trading places in Cape Town

Hand-drawn plan of a building



Hidden histories and Invisible Spaces: Migrant trading places in Cape Town

First and second supervisors 


This research project draws on postcolonial theories, the politics of invisibility, and the notion of everyday architectures in order to investigate African markets, pan-African shopping arcades, and new immigrant enclaves in Cape Town. The focus of the research is around how these everyday architectures are rendered invisible through spatial and political processes within the city, country, and continent.

More specifically, through a study of the materiality, networks, and infrastructures of migrants in Cape Town, this research project intends to trace how new migrants, despite or because of their marginality, negotiate spaces in the city. This spatial negotiation takes place on an informal, legal, and institutional level, and exists within the context of the rapidly changing post-apartheid state, ideas of the ‘Rainbow nation’, growing xenophobia, and a historically based racialized notion of migration.

In relating these new migrations to older patterns of ‘hidden architectures’, I hope to raise questions around the relationship between migration and space in the city, and how ‘hidden architectures’ act as ‘lived spaces’. The research furthermore draws on my architectural background, extending architectural site-work to fieldwork, and explores the potential of drawing as a research tool.


Huda Tayob received a Masters degree in Architecture (Distinction) from the University of Cape Town. She subsequently worked in architectural practices in Cape Town, Mumbai, and Tokyo before starting the PhD. Her doctoral research looks into the ‘hidden architectures’ of Cape Town, through the markets and trading spaces of African immigrants in the city since the 1990s. Her research is funded by the Commonwealth Scholarships Commission.