AZA Master Class 2010 – Convertible Cities

This year’s Architectural Student Congress was combined with the Architecture ZA (AZA 2010) and held in Newtown, Johannesburg. AZA 2010 hosted a Master Class session, which were attended by several prominent professionals and hosted at Arts on Main, just West of Johannesburg’s CBD.

I was chosen amongst several other student submissions for an Autodesk Sponsored entry into the Master Class program held at the end of the first week.


The Convertible City – Ivan Kucina and Dustin A Tusnovics

‘This dynamically experimental master class offers to look for new models of development strategies from as far afield as Vienna and the Balkans while honing participants’ approach to design thinking on all scales. Ivan Kucina will draw on his experience of the illegal building sprawl of the Western Balkan. In response to the independence movement, the process of geopolitical fragmentation has been termed Balkanization. Meanings of “Balkanization” have expanded across the world to connote any kind of urban dissolution. It has come to mean a counter action to the integrating and homogenizing effects of globalization. This system is providing a new model of urban development that is abandoning the ideal of the planned and synchronized unification of the socialist system. Kucina’s master class will see him teamed up with other leading urban experimentalists to explore strategies to convert Joburg’s lines of division – its physical and mental boundaries – into places of positive social exchange.

Dustin A Tusnovics also brings his vast European experience to the table to support and counterpoint the lesson from the Balkans. His engagement in a trans-disciplinary discourse on sustainable architecture has resulted in the realisation of several community-based poverty relief projects in South Africa which implement sustainability through hands-on engagement with needy communities.’

Newness is produced through conflict and negotiation between institutions and individuals.
 – Ivan Kucina

 * Excerpt taken from AZA Master Class Brief

The video below is the summary of the process and the work followed by the explanation in more detail  

The research group was made up of five students from various Universities in South Africa and was intended to feed Ivan’s research towards his blog under the same name: Convertible Cities.

Convertible City is a research project that explores strategies to convert Joburg’s lines of division – its physical and mental boundaries – into places of positive social exchange. Urban boundaries could be considered a result of “disintegration” (social, functional, legal, economic, cultural, political, both historic and contemporary) in combination with the imperatives of rapid urban growth. These boundaries appear everywhere in the city at many levels, shapes and scales in both space and time. They could be seen to encompass the whole spectrum of urban phenomena: from informal to institutional, from temporal to eternal … This master class will propose that these boundaries signify the space, the line and the gap between different individuals, groups, territories and interests.

Taking a multiplicity of urban divisions as our starting point, this project aims to establish a provisional taxonomy of Joburg’s many states and expressions of ‘limit’ and ‘boundary’. The chosen situations will be scanned and mapped to expose the network of vibrant relations between social actors, their behaviors and the built environment. Using a series of diagrams to navigate through the mapped territory, each participant will then conceptualize a system of interventions that can act to convert boundaries into critically meaningful alternatives.
We aim to expose and capitalize upon a variety of complementary conversion concepts: the growth of bottom-up initiatives; the empowerment of concurrent states of existence; the fusion of multiplicity; the deviation of limitations; the ability to take the initiative for limited time; a bit of coexistence where there’s nothing left to lose but a lot to add; the most literal application of basic building tools; capacity building of a host body to adapt to uncoordinated external partitions; enlargement of the voids between fulfilled desires and continual delays due to undetermined construction processes…
Participants will create a comprehensive variety of outcomes at a diverse scale of strategic intent. From portable devices and installations to public building and the formation of new types of public space, this workshop will provide an intense bubble for experimentation and debate as we come to grips with Joburg’s many extremes of urban reality.

* Excerpt taken from Convertible Cities

Convertible Cities 2010
Upon receiving the brief from Ivan the students studied the map of Johannesburg’s CBD and decided, based on their proximity to Arts on Main and main life, that they would use choose a site within walking distance. Their intention being to choose a context that would have the energies required to fulfill a diverse mapping process.

Mapping Troye Street
The Site
The students chose the route from Park Central Taxi Rank to Commissioner Street’s BRT stop along Troye street as the group decided they would explore the connectivity of people in the CBD and resolve the brief from that standpoint.
Site Location – Park Central to Commisioner Street
After a brief mapping exercise the group set to work, depicting the mapping process onto their framework that they had laid out before hand. The intention was to express their experience’s through the CBD via the mapping and try convey what they felt and saw along the route.
Initial Concept
From these concept diagram the group proposed various interventions, agreeing that through connectivity they could increase the social cohesion of the urban city dwellers through incentive based game player scenarios at various points.
Concept Model – Social Interaction
Concept Diagram – Incentive Nodes
Giving name to the system: SACCS – Campus of Life
The themes that governed the program were based on the notion of the contrast of the CBD contrasting to the rest of JHB as  playground of pleasure versus a playground of survival with the CBD context being the location of the survival.
Playground of Pleasure
Playground of Survival
Through this analogy the group sought to ‘convert the city’ through breaking down the barriers of education by integrating the people of the city into a connected social group, who together can strive to a more educated and cohesive society themselves.
The idea being that the people involved in their day to lives could participate at various nodes to work together at these points to gain credits in the form of either transport tokens, food tokens or access into beginner level course at various tertiary education systems in the CBD.
These points would be enhanced by the opening up of the ground floors of various building increasing the shop frontage that shops have and providing more opportunities through the movements of people.
FNB Faculty of Business
These tertiary systems would be sponsored by the building who host the game players points on their ground level. i.e the FNB faculty of business, hosting a multi-player incentive point whereby users who take part and complete a series of business related questions together in a certain time would gain education credits to allow them access into the system. 
Or the Pick ‘n Pay transport node where users who clean the bus stop would be given food tokens and so on.
The methods of linking these points of interactivity would be done via cell phones, CCTV digital displays and other digital media. These would then supplement other campus activities such as the fashion schools who display their designs on ramps found on top of the BRT stops and displayed throughout the CBD via CCTV.
BRT Cat Walk with CCTV Link
Other faculty points would be retrofits of existing buildings such as the Drill Hall, where the Arts Faculty would open up to the youth in the area and provide a space for expression of art and display student work.
Drill Hall Art Faculty
These interventions were marked out on key points on the framework, with the entire display creating a sensual display of the barriers and debris that a typical city dweller deals with on a daily basis.
Final Presentation