Carin Smuts started working with impoverished and marginalised communities in 1982, when 8 migrant workers from Lingelihle, Cradock, Eastern Cape South Africa approached the University of Cape Town School of Architecture, asking for assistance to obtain land and build a skills training workshop. Carin, a third year architectural student, took up the task. This was at the height of Apartheid, which presented many challenges, especially since construction projects were illegal under the state of emergency.
In 1989, Carin founded CS Studio Architects in collaboration with Urs Schmid. Since then, the practice has produced hundreds of public buildings and communal spaces in disadvantaged contexts, both urban and rural. These are located all over South Africa and one building is in Namibia.
Carin Smuts favours a participative and collaborative approach in her work, in order to establish a clear understanding of the needs of future users, as well as to draw on their knowledge and cultural references.
During construction, Carin likes to ensure that local economic opportunities are created, therefore choosing local contractors, sub-contractors and craftspeople. She uses locally available and recycled materials.
Carin Smuts was awarded the 2008 Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in Paris and an honourable mention for the 2014 UIA Vassilis Sgoutas Award. She was awarded the UIA Robert Matthew Prize for sustainable and humane environments in 2017.