Thomas Van Deventer, a University colleague from my masters’s year, put together a team to design, fund and build a sculpture for the event this year and invited me to join their efforts. They formed the team in Cape Town and worked furiously on top of their day-to-day to make the project happen.
They named the project Dissipate and jointly design an amazing tensigritous structure seen here:
The team put together a tight ThundaFund Campaign and through much effort and a fundraising event secured the financial support to complete the build . It was only here that I was able to help the team, as well as assist in the logistical arrangement of a trailer.
I was able to help with some of the later stages of the build process, only arriving on the Thursday. But spent much of the Burn documenting the structure:
Later on the first night the Burn decided to hold a party around the structure.:
From here the team was able to relax a bit more and enjoy the countless activities and happenings across Tankwa Town.
The spectacle of the burning of the various sculptures was the highlight of many evenings, and brought out many characters from 10 000 plus people who attended this year.
The Dissipate team did not burn the sculpture for several reasons, but chose to dissassemble and and take the various parts back to Cape Town.\
Looking forward to next year. The planning has already begun….
In 2014, after moving into Johannesburg’s inner city, I became involved with a group of artists who had started a very interesting project around engaging ‘positively’ with Johannesburg’s inner city, commonly known as the ‘Joburg CBD’.
This scenario holds a seminal message of why the Joburg Joburg was conceived – many people don’t see the inner city Joburg as Joburg, instead they see it as a dangerous no-go zone of unnaccessible spaces occupied by a crime syndicate bent on murdering everyone who crosses it’s threshold.
This stigma, which is endemic of many South African public spaces, is the very thing the Joburg Joburg team and myself were looking to understand and explore through our various projects under Joburg Joburg.
The Joburg Joburg story starts with Johan Stegman, and engineer/artist moving into an unoccupied rooftop space owned by a large down town Joburg developer at their flagship property of Corner House.
Image: Johan Stegman & Allen Laing
Through a set of chance circumstance and a burning desire to engage with the city, Johan with Allen Laing, a sculptor working in the inner city, set up an extensive and highly successful multi-artist exhibition exhibition to engage with this question of ‘responding to the centre’.
At this point I was living in the building across from Corner House and assisted the Joburg Joburg team with some minor installation work. This relationship developed as I began assisting the team with some spatial design support towards what they called the Kingdom Hideaway Partnership Rooftop Vision. A strategic design initiative to bring together the various actors at the Corner House building around a common vision of ‘productive’ inner city use.
As part of the arrangement was that I was allowed stay on the roof at corner house for a nominal fee where I took up residence in the Apartheid planned ‘domestic quarters’.
These spaces were the logistic outcome of the Group Areas Act that did not allow black people to live in the same structure as white people which in the suburban areas manifested into what we see today as the ‘maid’s room’ a separate room on the boundary of suburban properties.
But in the city these spaces were placed on the roof’s of building and carefully designed with shared (under serviced) ablutions, lockable areas (to keep people in, not out) and windows that are too high to see out of, but provide the minimal amount of ventilation to pas regulation.
These spaces are still in use all over Johannesburg, and hold amazing potential to allow mixed income housing as well as developing a more integrated urban culture – but continue to be used to house a a portion of the labour sector in quite unfair conditions.
Rooftop Socio-Spatial Planning
This initial task was to design and strategies a way to maximise the use of the rooftop space, which is currently underutilised and create a shared environment that only brings the various stakeholders on the roof together, but creates a space for others to access city from.
A phased, multi use strategy was proposed that included light scale rooftop gardening, venue spaces and a potential creative residence that would link with existing functions and support the vision held by the developers for the building.
Rooftop Garden Proposal
This strategy wasn’t met with a completely negative response, but due to the various factors involved with a development in the city certain stakeholders were not willing to make the initial investment of time or commitment, but instead chose to pursue ‘safer’ development investments and options.
Beyond Corner House I also provided spatial strategies, alongside colleagues from Johannesburg, for other buildings which were met with a similar response.
View from the Roof Roof Roof
Although the my time with Joburg Joburg was not productive in shifting the perspective of those I worked with I managed to conduct many interesting projects with the city spaces I worked on and used on daily basis.
Post (in)formal City Programme, some of the participants stayed in Berlin to further take in what the city had to offer. Below is a short photo essay on some of the spaces visited in the downtime.
Post Programme Adventure: the Great Cycle Mission Dagmar Hoetzel, an architectural journalist and project supporter, offered to take myself and fellow participant Claudia Morgado on an Architectural Bike Tour of her favourite spaces in Berlin. Starting at the Kreutzberg Hill Dagmar took us on an epic adventure across the city’s network of cycling routes.
In early 2013 I was offered the opportunity to apply for a professional exchange programme between Berlin and Johannesburg, The (in)formal City Programme to explore the nature of informality, which i was fortunate enough to be selected for:
The (in)formal City is a cooperation project around an interdisciplinary team from Berlin and Johannesburg of people interested in the complex phenomena of urbanisation between formality and informality. The project was initiated by Inpolis and the Goethe-Institut in Berlin and funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. The cooperation partners in Johannesburg are 26’10 SOUTH ARCHITECTS and Alexander Opper (University of Johannesburg).
The programme selected 12 participants from a Johannesburg application process and 12 from Berlin, and involved spending 2 week focussed research periods in either city exploring the nature of informality in both locations.
Day 1: what does Informal/Formal mean to you?
Berlin was introduced to the Joburger’s in a rapid and thorough fashion, starting in the city’s planning department with amazing scale models of Berlin.
The simplicity of arranging these columns in a grid to re-create the effect of disappearance is quite amazing.
Eisenman Memorial Effect # 1
Eisenman Memorial Effect # 2
Eisenman Memorial Effect # 3
This space is highly successful in achieving the intended effect, with a colleague sharing how a friend she brouhgt to site was so moved by the experience that he/she was brought to tears in remembrance of a family member who dissapeared from her/.his life.
The forms encouraged people to climb on top for reflection
While many people choose to pay their respects to the memorial in reflective silence, other choose to play – with local authorities close by to reprimand them.
The heights and forms appeal to the playful nature of attracted many people to engage with the volumetric nature of the space – which the local authorities quickly and continually had to re-enforce.
The first day was finished in a strange experience for a South African – enjoying an afternoon in a public park…more on this was explored later in the programme
Relaxing in Public Space?
Prinzessinnengarten, a ‘community’ garden in Berlin’s was our first stop the following day, this urban garden has been set up in the bustling suburb of Kreutzberg on the former border of Berlin’s Eastern edge. As a group we were very lucky to be shown the garden by co-founder Robert Shaw.
Nomadisch Grün (Nomadic Green) launched Prinzessinnengärten (Princess gardens) as a pilot project in the summer of 2009 at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, a site which had been a wasteland for over half a century. Along with friends, activists and neighbours, the group cleared away rubbish, built transportable organic vegetable plots and reaped the first fruits of their labour.
The afternoon was completed by a tour of the ‘Turkish neighbourhoods’ by local resident who explained the complex history of Turkish migrant labour and the social stigma’s around such minority groups today.
‘Turkish Neighborhood’ visit
See fellow participants Sylvana Jahre & Trusha Mitha’s research here on community organizations in Berlin:
There is something about growing up so far from taught precedents of architecture that makes seeing such examples in person so special.
By far my favourite space in Berlin, the Templehof Field is a de-commissioned airport that has now become an integral part of the open-green public space systems in Berlin’s dense residential neighbourhoods.
We experienced the Templehof Field through a local organisation that had set up a public garden space within the large expanse of green.
… and finished the day with a Berlin-styled Braai…
See fellow participants Héctor Carreto & Olumuyiwa Adegun’sresearch on Templehof:
Following an action packed week of Berlin we were given the weekend off to explore the city un-programmed.
Stumble Stones – a city wide memorial to those who were taken by the Nazis
The residential areas of Berlin hide a beautiful and sinister memorial at various locations – these stumble stones commemorate those who were taken from their homes during the nationalist pograms and are intended to be ‘stumbled’ upon in everyday life.
Stumble Stones – a city wide memorial to those who were taken by the Nazis
Mauer Park Berlin Wall Art
Parts of the Berlin wall are commemorated all over the city. The wall in Mauer Park is constantly being re-painted and re-expressed.
Mauer Park Berlin Wall Art
Re-purposed industrial park
The weekend was spent relaxing as our hosts showed us more of the diverse artistic spaces and initiative across the city.
Re-purposed industrial park
Street Art by night
Party in a boat house on the River Spree – as we came expect in Berlin this was not uncommon…
Street Art by night
Berlin Squatters – Party Time
Weekend close off
The week was beautifully closed by a Sunday sunset on a bridge with Alexanderplatz Tower in the distance.
For this week we were to choose a tandem partner, and explore one of the sites further through a condensed research exercise.
I was partnered with a geography student from the Humboldt university, Hanna Niklasz. We chose to look at perceptions of public space with a larger aim to compare how people used and expressed their perception to public space in a public park in Berlin; the Goerlitzer Park.
To see my research conducted with Hanna Niklasz on Goerlitzer Park:
The park is stigmatized with an assocaition to drug dealng and drug use – this perception did not seem too far off as I experienced very obious drug dealers who operated in plain sight and quite openly (and friendlily) offered us their services.
Stigmatized – but used public space
Even though the drug selling was quite evident, the park is still active and quite busy at most hours of the day.
For me as a South African the idea that such an element operated in the park in both open and closed public spaces was quote a shock .
These perceptions of both the tandem and park users were explored and documented thoroughly in the following post:
See participants Malve
Jacobsen & Tebogo Ramatlo’s research on Bottle Collectors in public space:
The ‘formal’programme concluded with tandems presenting their various process and findings in a lrage rgoup discussion where the concepts of informality/formality were discussed through the various case studies presented.
The programme was originally framed to explore the complexity of terms such as informal and formal and manifested into something much more discursive around these terms.
From the beginning the difficulty of this was quite evident, as our various disciplinary, geographic and cultural backgrounds brought such diverse introspection to the terms.
What we perceived as Joburger’s and were shown by our Berlin hosts was difficult for us to describe as informal, but through the process we were able to understand their perception of these terms around the counter-currents of space use, action and civil movement that exist in Berlin.
I was left asking the question, why informal, as this term from my experience only has value when coupled as prefix or suffix to describe one of the many connotations that this word holds.
As a practitioner and part time academic, this term for me is useful when attempting to understand a situation or object that is located within a complex system – with the ultimate aim of engaging with such a situation or object in order to design and act on this understanding.
The Berlin leg of this project was highly insightful and left me appreciating many afro-pessimistic aspects of Johannesburg City that I felt were negative as things that even first world cities struggle with.
My first teaching role at the Faculty of Art Design & Architecture was dropped into my lap by Suzette Grace. By throwing me into the deep end of arranging a week long introductory week for the entire department of Architecture, she effectively kick started my teaching career. Thank you Suzette 😉
Creativity Week/Vertical Studios
The Creativity Weeks/Vertical Studios were meant to be a week-long participative event kicking off the year with a series of interactive and challenging exercises that bring together the current and new students of Architecture at the University of Johannesburg – across all years of study. The assignments are intended to take students into exciting parts of the city and explore/re-discover spaces in the City of Johannesburg.
They were meant to be a fun ‘orientation week’ for the start of the new year that allowed students to do something creative, fun and together for the start of the year. I used the oppurtunity as a way to explore some of my own interests in inner-city Jozi.
Creativity Week 2013
This first year I worked within an existing partnership between Dr. Barbara Holtmann, Emma Holtmann and UJ, as well as employing the precedented work of the Creativity Week 2012 by Eric Wright . The week long programme was intended to facilitate the introduction and further development of Architectural thinking, doing and problem solving in Johannesburg’s dynamic inner city spaces – while bringing together the students from the various years. This facilitation the exposed the students to the larger strategies of the stakeholders involved in this area.
Students were asked to take part in the week long exposure to the inner city and the project partners that was facilitated by Dr. Barbara HoltmannJoburg Child Welfare and Joburg Region F who brought together government, business and NGOs in the inner city. This collaboration aimed at bringing about a systemic transformation of the neighbourhood surrounding and including the Old Drill Hall, which is the site of Joburg Child Welfare’s Thembalethu project.
By focusing on “what-it-looks-like-when-it’s-fixed” and co-creating a shared vision for the future of the inner city based on integrated approaches and partnerships, the process promotes change in three primary and inter-connected areas: health and wellness, access and mobility in the city and in supporting the city’s programmes.
Day 1 & 2:
The week began with the FADA Auditorium introduction, followed by group division and the first bus trips to the site. On site we were met by JMPD and the Best Life project co-ordinators.
With the previous day’s elective’s workshop’s guiding them, the students then focussed in on their specific areas of interest and gathered on site data to begin their intervention proposals.
The purpose of the exposure and facilitation now being focussed around the question of how the students can use their skills as designers to improve the spaces they were tasked to engage with – and present their ideas to the group of stakeholders made up of city officials and academics.
DAY 4 & 5:
The students now were allocated time to work in their multi-year groups and produce the necessary documentation and presentation products to express their ideas.
Each group was led by a pair of BTech students who had been guided by Dr. Holtmann’s workshop to lead their younger members towards the outcomes and observations discussed on Day 2.
The MTech 1 students were asked to critique the groups (A-I) and each group presented for 10 minutes to the student panel. Of these 9 groups, 6 were chosen to present to the stakeholder panel scheduled for the afternoon session and 3 prizes were chosen by the MTech panel:
The stakeholder panel; made up of City of Johannesburg officials, academics and welfare staff, were very impressed with the enthusiasm and quality of the student work and their presentation. They called for the work to be taken further and discussed finding a way to present this to the mayor.
Staff members pledged to try and facilitate future engagement with stakeholder panel by aligning their academic programmes to support the work. The students expressed their interest in taking the work further, possibly in their own capacity, and seemed to enjoy the week’s programme. A working relationship is being established with the stakeholder at the moment.
At the closure of the presentations a small function was held in the FADA basement parking, where the prizes were awarded and the students completed the week’s event – arguably the most important part of the week’s activities.
Vertical Studio 2014
The Vertical Studio was the evolution of Creativity Week based on the new undergraduate framing structure of the department. This year students worked alongside Thiresh Govender and Katharina Rohde in line with their PublicActs initiative.
PublicActs is a practice-based investigation into urban matters with a focus on cities in the global south. PublicActs brings together various creative disciplines such as artists, architects, urban anthropologists or geographers to connect with communities and actors on site. In collaborative processes public spaces are creatively audited in order to implement sustainable strategies for an adequate architecture and urban design. For more information: www.publicacts.org.
PublicActs employs various methodologies and tools to interrogate and explore public space:
1. GRAND AND SPECTACULAR
These sites are characterised as being: large and dramatic in scale, highly specialised, singular ownership, dedicated used, exclusive (sometimes), grand, controlled accessibility (sometimes).
Examples include: Mary Fitzgerald Square, Bank City, Walter Sisulu Square of Dedication, Monte Casino.
These sites are part of our everyday experiences and are characterised as being: accessible, open, transient, emergent, imagined, appropriated, contested, negotiated, intimate, multiple narrative, intensely used.
Examples include: a street, a taxi, markets,parks,squares…
3. NEW IMAGINARIES
These sites are new and unexpected which have emerged through innovative and/or survivalist responses to urban space. They are characterised as being: open, vague, abandoned, repurposed, inbetween, placeless, emergent, transgressive.
Examples include: under bridges, pathways, rooftops, open spaces, sidewalks.
These are not so much sites as moments where ‘public-ness’ is constructed. They come in to being for a short space of time due to some or other urban condition. They are characterised as being; spontaneous, creative, inter-active, social…
These sites are closely associated with places of civic power and are characterised as having important public, social importance and gravitas. These are spaces where the voices of a democracy can be articulated and heard by those chosen to represent a society. They are characterised as being: harsh, concrete, exclusive, narrow…
Examples include: Constitutional Square, the Magistrates Court, Joburg Civic Centre Forecourt, The Supreme Court (Von Brandis Square), The Family
The 2014 UJ Vertical Studio adopted these methodologies and tools of PublicActs to explore the City of Johannesburg. Students will be exploring 7 identified zones in the city, using various forms of media to create a grounded and critical perspective on public space, identify spatial issues and propose a concept solution to address this.
Using the idea of selfies and space students were set the task of exploring the city on foot to take these ‘spacies’ while employing different forms of transport through a treasure hunt type event.
The students then were asked to explore the 7 themes through a set of ‘ironic’ post cards
Vertical Studio 2015
The fial year I ran this programme, we extended the brief into a more creative field, and worked with Eduardo Cachucho through his Derive App.
Johannesburg’s inner city represents one of the most diverse cross-sections of contemporary South Africa in less than 5 square kilometres of concrete skyscrapers and bustling streetscapes.
From hipster’s to migrant workers, a vast array of characters unknowingly work together to make up a dynamic inner city ecosystem that represents the heart of the strongest metropolis in Africa.
As practitioners of space, we often (sometimes intentionally) are distanced from the palimpsest of narratives that give meaning and value to the spaces we overlook daily – these stories that thrive within the interwoven networks and individuals that pulse through the CBD hold the potential to reveal new understandings of how a contemporary city in modern South Africa flourishes.
Your task this week is to dive head deep into the complex spaces that make up the CBD and imagine what possibilities these stories hold for an ever changing city that still draws scores of hopeful urbanites to its lights. Using the Derive App (http://deriveapp.com/s/v2/) you will explore the city and collect objects, experiences, stories, characters. Then as a group you will transform these findings into a short story of your own – projecting 50 years in the future.
The first 2 days will have you engaging in the city with the Derive App. Once you have collected your story elements, you will then spend the next 2 days working towards building these elements into a narrative – projecting your story 100 years into the future. Your story must focus on a character/characters and their relationship to the space you are designated too. The intention behind this task is to explore how people define their spaces in the city.
You may choose any form of narrative device from the list, which you will present to a panel of judges on Friday, followed by prize giving/party in the FADA Building Basement.
As a group you will choose one person to use their smart phone, and log into the Derive App. Once you are in your designated zone, you will log into the Vertical Studio Week Group and use a deck of 50 cards to collect your story elements.
Each person in the group must choose their documentation tool, all tools must be used in the groups.
Each group must use their specific hashtag #ujvertstudio_8
You may use any media to tell your story:
Storyboard/ Graphic Novel
Best photo essay
Best graphic novel/Storyboard
Running these programmes was extremely rewarding, challenging and just good fun. It gave me the necessary exposure to grow and develop as a young teacher and urbanist,.
My intention for 2016 was to return this opportunity to the next round of younger early staff members who has helped me run these this programme along the way (Joana Ferro, Blanca Calvo, Tuliza Sindi, Sanjay Jeevan, Sumayya Valley amongst many others), but due to the dynamics of the school – this was not allowed and the programme became something very different.
I was recently commissioned to gather resource information around Durban’s Market’s of Warwick. These photos were collected during this exercise, but do not depict any information in regard to task I was assigned.
The film is essentially a passive service delivery protest, the tea behind its conceptiton did not want to play into the typical depiction of poverty and despair, but rather capture the cohesion and hope that many informal settlements and other vulnerable communities share.
If you want to understand a community, ask them about their aspirations.
Slovo Park is situated in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land south of Soweto. The community has been known by national government as Nancefield, by local council as Olifantsvlei and in the last five years as Slovo Park – named in honour of South Africa’s first minister of housing and former Umkhonto we Sizwe General, Joe Slovo. This forced changing of identity reflects an on-going struggle faced by the leadership of Slovo Park to gain recognition as a legitimate settlement to access governmental support. This battle has been fought through constant shifts in governmental policy, power and promises for the community of Slovo Park. Amidst the struggle, stories of sinister land dealings have emerged, outlining a possible truth that the ground beneath Slovo Park could have been sold from under the community’s feet. These allegations surface as the leadership of Slovo Park prepares itself to take action.
Waterborne captures the moment of hope, held in anticipation, before the first truly concrete step towards a dignified future.
In 2011, Alexander Melck of the Pretoria Picture Company, then an Information Design student at the University of Pretoria, began working with the founders of 1:1 on a student film competition. Although the first submission was not successful, the lessons gathered and the understanding required proved to be successful in 2012 when The Pretoria Picture Company and 1:1 partnered to work on Waterborne.
The submission to the CCI in Zero Film Competition was highly successful, and shooting began in July during Johannesburg’s freak snow storm, this gave the film a unique time stamp and brought home some of the most salient points of the production.
Director: Alexander Melck
Producers: Alexander Melck, Jhono Bennett, Ingmar Buchner
Cinematography: Alexander Melck & Ingmar Buchner
Grips: Jhono Bennett, Stefan Wagner, Michael Smith
Editor: Alexander Melck
Sound Design: MJ van der Westhuizen
Translations: Farai Machingambi
After effects assistant: Wouter Jacobs
Production interns: Christopher Ramm, Stefan Wagner
“…I’m not going-to-cook-it, but I’ll order it from ZANZIBAR!!!”
Jack Black, 2005
Two weeks after completing my masters dissertation I received the news that my fragile leftover self would be able to join the University of Pretoria’s research expedition to Zanzibar‘s Stone Town.
The trip was planned over the December break and would have us in Tanzania for three weeks over Christmas. With no other way to say no and the possibility of an East African adventure I happily agreed to help in the search for:
Our mandate was to document and identify the intangible elements that gave Stone Town its World Heritage Status, and from the documentation make recommendation how to preserve these elements in the face of current development.
Stone Town is located on the South Island of Uguja, known as Zanzibar. Formed as a major port city on the East African trade route, Stone Town stands as an Architecturally social reserve for the Swahili culture.
Location map taken from the 2011 report (UP,2011)
Our first day was spent taking in the intimate spaces that made the street ways and public open spaces of Stone Town.
The UP team exploring Stone Town
A portrait of street life
The major public spaces are found in the beaches
The famous hand carved Zanzibar doors
Jaws Corner, one of the most well known squares
Bicycles, motorbikes and scooters play havoc as one moves through the narrow streets
The accommodation we were given – on the right
Culture within development
The peace memorial within Stone Town
Our hosts from the STCDA, leading the tour
Maintainence being performed on a coral stone buildings
An entrance to a mosque
The Forodahni night market
Private square beyond the street
The romantically placed upper levels of living
what happens when you get lost in Zanzibar taxi trying to get home
Various elements of street life in Stone Town
What we discovered was one of the true elements that made Stone Town – the barazza’s.
The process of documenting the squares was our main task. We worked closely with the departments involved in Stone Town’s cultural preservation and urban development.
Our briefing from the authorities
Our home base was located in the STCDA’s offices. Part of the former palace grounds to the House of Wonders, we were set up in the former library of the East Wing.
Preparing for the documentation process
View from our Zanzi-Office’s library window to the House of Wonders
The inner courtyard of our Zanzi-Office, the STCDA building
In the field
Cover to the 2011 UP Report (UP,2011)
The plan was to work from the University of Minnesota’s outline of the 114 public squares of Stone Town, and document the aspects of each square that made up the intangible heritage values.
Due to time constraints the STCDA identified squares of importance (30) and we strategised as to how to capture the required information.
The team in the field
We settled on a methodology of capturing the nature of the square objectively through a panoramic view, noted elements of ‘importance’ and took several interviews from square users and passer bys.
Methodology taken from the report #1 (UP,2011)
Methodology taken from the report #2 (UP,2011)
We split into several groups made up of STCDA staff members, volunteers from the local University and University of Pretoria students.
My team and myself in the field #1
My team and myself in the field #2
My team and myself in the field #3
My team and myself in the field #4
This information was then painstakingly captured and documented into a graphic report to UNESCO.
The Square register (UP,2011)
Example of captured square #1 (UP,2011)
Example of captured square #1 (UP,2011)
Example of captured square #2 (UP,2011)
Example of captured square #2 (UP,2011)
During this time, on the first weekend, our hosts treated us to a day trip of the South Island.
The trip took us on a dow sail to a bizzarly remote tidal island made up of only sand and hundreds of faux Italian swimsuit models.
Island of the Italian swim suit
Here we spent the day snorkelling, sun bathing and relaxing. Later, as the tide drew in, the Dow returned to take us home.
During the week, we sought to escape the hustle of Stone Town. After meeting a group of expat locals, they told us of the Mbweni ruins hotel. Just south of Stone Town, it’s definitely one of Zanzibar’s secret sunset locations.
After two weeks of toiling in he streets of Stone Town, we presented our findings to a panel of local authorities and the STCDA in the halls of the palace building.
Impromptu meeting hall
Preparing for the speech
The presentation under way
Standard post research trip group photo
A very much needed break was taken after the research work. The team hopped onto one of the infamous Dallallas (Basically a taxi on the back of a flatbed truck) to the North Island, headed to Nungwe.
No space in the dallalla after 37 people are squeezed in
A local gathering we came across on the way north
Arriving at the picturesque North Island at Nungwe, we took a water taxi to the Kendwa Rocks resort
Nungwe Resort, paradise?
And as all tourists in Zanzibar, we took full advantage of the photo oppurtunities in the poetic sun sets of the East African Islands.
Using all the connections we made in Stone Town, we arranged a dow cruise to a snorkelling reef on the far end of the North Island.
Our last afternoon in Zanzibar was spent relaxing on the beach while we watched the North Islanders performing on the beach.
A very conscious and restrained effort has been made not to mention in detail the nature of Zanzibar’s ‘Beach Boys’ and the phenomena of the Jungle Safari that takes place all over Sub Saharan Africa… Lets just say apparently if your a pale African, your not really African…
Zanzibar – land of sunsets?
Research into foreign context
During the trip, we discussed at length the notion of foreign research’s aiming to quantify intangibles in unfamiliar contexts. Is it fair to claim we understand the value of Stone Town, a 500 year old settlement, in two weeks of research?
While the team felt frustrated at the time frame we were given, it forced us to make quick decisions and realise our limitations. In the end we agreed on an honest depiction of what we saw, captured as objectively and clearly as possible. We aimed to let this exercise set up the framework for further research by documenting the process as much as the findings we identified.
Surely a fresh perspective should add value to any subject? Perhaps, but from our side we felt that our own perspectives were broadened in regard to looking into identifying ‘elements of value’ in our own cultures back at home.
This years Cement and Concrete Institute’s Film Competition was themed Science Friction and called for ideas on what the Future of the African Citiy will be.
The film competition gives students the oppurtunity to pitch their ideas to the organisers, who then select the top 4 entries and give them R25 000 to make a short film.
Previous winner include ‘Litshe le Golide ‘ / “Stone From Gold” –won Best Documentary Film (International Category)in Turkey at the International Istanbul Architecture and Urbanism Film Festival.
The film was produced by Guy Adam Ailion, Andrew Ross Bell, Tamara Lynnand Craig Michael Maarschalk all students from Wits University.
‘Litshe Le Golide “Stone From Gold” is a Short Film About Johannesburg City as a Mining Town Turn
Metropolis. The film narrates the memories of a mine worker swimming through water while he contemplates his infatuation for this contrasted city and questions, WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE GOLD RUNS OUT ?
Having spent the last few years working in the peri urban settlements of South Africa, the choice to do a film about the conditions around these areas was quite easy.
The work done around my Dissertation Research was used to support the story line, which was developed by myself and Tommy Van Deventer, a studio colleague who shares the corner nook of anti-social life in the bowels of Boukunde.
The basic outline of the story hinged on Rem Koolhaas’s study of Lagos, he put forward that possibly the future patterns of First World Cities lies in the sporadic and fluxual growth pattern of African Cities.
The Story begins when a lonely and lost spirit arrives in a foreign environment ( A Township).
The spirit then begins to wander his new environment, searching for purpose and place in this new world.
The spirit then makes contact with a young man who, striving for his own place in this world of the peri-urban, sells goods from a small mobile stand on the road.
The spirit then takes the form of his stand, providing him with support, shelter and place to work from.
The young man eventually rises above his circumstance and moves on, leaving the spirit abandoned to wander this world again. He meets and old woman, who is supporting herself and her children.
The spirit then takes the form of the woman’s house, providing shelter for her and her children, growing and changing over the years to adapt and meet their ever flexing needs.
The woman passes on and her children move away, again, leaving the spirit alone. Yet again it wanders coming across this time a group of men producing bricks from their backyards.
The spirit then takes the form of the bricks themselves.
Embodying the building block, the spirit then engages all facets of his now familiar world. Meeting the needs of as many people as it can through its now flexible form.
The spirit carries on for years as the brick, each year doing more to help, to find its purpose and place through engagement and response.
Finally, over saturated and overspent, the spirit relents its form as the brick, and by choice, wanders alone again.
The spirit then returns to where it first arrived, and begins to think. It starts to consider what it saw, what it did, how it helped and how it couldn’t, who it is and where it is, what it is?
As it sits thinking, it begins to change, it changes as it reflects on what it has seen. While the forms it takes begin to speed up, the people in the area begin to gather around it. The more it changes, the more the people gather.
The spirits own flux in form begins to speed up, more and more, people begin to engage with the spirit, taking shelter under its overarching form, resting on its changing surfaces.
The fluxual growth of the spirit, the multifaceted flexible forms express the fluidity and adaptiveness of the South African condition. The spirit becomes one with the people thus exemplifying the true South African condition.
Pitch to the Producers
From this original pitch, we were shortlisted to a final 8, of which 4 were to be chosen after a pitch to the judging panel.
Tommy Van Deventer, Merike Swanepoel, Alexander Melck and myself, then began preparing a more developed presentation.
We decided as a group to take the original story and expand it to include the urban condition of South Africa as well. And take a step back and look at the theory behind the story.
The narrative would remain similar, but would tell the story of two spirits, an Urban and a Peri-Urban character, describe each character, explain their micro stories, depict an event that brings them together and through a process of re-emergence, discover they are the same, and ultimately merge to be a truer, stronger spirit that embodies the nature of African City.
Merike put together a short introductory video to create the atmosphere necessary to begin the process.
Introduction of story Themes and Theory
Introduction of the true nature of the spirit, the indomitable human spirit to select one’s own path in life, regardless of choices offered.
Introducing themes of mobility:
Peri Urban Character
Themes of cohesion:
Peri Urban Character
Themes of Adaptability:
Peri Urban Character
Themes of Appropriation:
Peri Urban Character
Investigation into the history of mobility:
Where it began
Where it extended
Investigation of Mobility through Urbanisation in South Africa
Investigation of fluxual growth through Mobility
Fluxual diagram of permanence
Fluxual diagram of temporality
Tension and balance within overlap of conditions
Future of the temporal flux of the African City according to Rem Koolhaas.
Summary of Temporal growth within Settlement
Adaptation of theory into storyboard
Introduction of Peri Urban Context
Introduction of Urban Context
Introduction of Urban Character
Introduction of Peri Urban Character
Doppelganger Moment – When the two spirits, previous enemies, realise they are twins.
Realisation of unity, and merger to ultimate master of two worlds.
We then closed with short test samples using footage from Site Visits and animation to explain our visual intent.
Unfortunately, we did not make it through to the final 5. We were told our themes were too theoretical and our presentation did not convey our ability to produce a film.
Perhaps we should have stuck closer to the original story and presented a better narrative the second time around.
In hindsight, it would have been difficult to produce this video for the September deadline and complete the Dissertation year’s requirement. But the themes, and ideas discussed did much in the way of supporting the dissertation.
But, as we were re-assurred by the producers – there’s always next year….
Every December my family’s evacuation from Durban to the relatively drier and calmer Western Cape takes us through the Transkei, Eastern Cape and Western Cape at break neck speed to lessen the hassle of the trip, a 1660km journey through the N2.
Having been involved in this pilgrimage for most of my life, and hardly experiencing more than a 5 minute fast food breakfast en route, I was determined to see what the N2 had to offer me as a student, a South African and Durbanite living in Pretoria with attachment issues from his time in Cape Town.
After a brief online look into what information was available on line for an Architectural Tourist, a flip through through Ora Jouberts Blue Book anda Fridaybunny chow session with my former undergraduate lecturer Derek Van Heerdan I had mapped out a rough assortment of stops along the N2.
The focus of the trip began as a quite broad look into contemporary Architecture in developing settlements of South Africa – I had no specific question to answer, I felt the journey was more a search for a question rather than a search for an answer.
The articles described a network of famous sites related to Nelson Mandela’s life such as Qunu, the place of Mandela’s birth, Mveso, Mthata and highlighting points such as University of Fort Hare in Alice, where he was educated, and going further into Pretoria and Johannesburg as well as Cape Town. The route also mentions Steve Biko’s grave site in King Williams Town.
The next intended stop was the Mveso Museum Pavilion, designed by Cohen and Judin Architects but the bad condition of the road leading to the heritage site and quickly fading daylight forced us to move on.
IMAGE: Pg 389; 10 Years 100 Buildings, Joubert Et Al
IMAGE: Pg 388; 10 Years 100 Buildings, Joubert Et Al
After a restless night on a University digs couch in Grahamstown and a in situ camera repair stint, we headed towards Port Elizabeth to visit the Red Location Museum of Struggle by by the Cape Town firm of Noero & Wolff Architects.
Memory Boxes, intended to symbolise the twilight of memory
While in Red Location I we came across a recently completed building, the Ubuntu Center by South African born and now California based firm, Field Architecture .
SOMEWHERE ON THE N2…
I’ve come across this building many times before and every time I see it I feel this would make quite an interesting project to work on. Unfortunately I can’t remember exactly where it is but its somewhere between Knysna and Mossel Baai on the N2.
There appears to be a whole community that has settled around this former Industrial building. I didn’t get close enough to see the extent of their interaction with the structure itself , but a large tree is growing inside.
Arriving in the mother city I found accommodation with a former classmate from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, who happened to have a spectacular view from his beautiful home in Blouberg. Courtesy of my host I had a breathtaking view from my ‘Cape Office’ while preparing for the year ahead.
The Cape stop was a twofold affair. In one regard I had much administrative issues to resolve from my former life in the Mountain City, on the other hand I had met many people during my time with Architecture for Humanity who were involved in projects in Kayalitsha and other developing areas in the Cape that I felt would be of interest towards my pre-masters resarch.
Between my administrative obligations I found time to visit Kirstenbosch for some mountain time and came across this very interesting exhibition building in the gardens. Dylan Lewis‘s sculptures have always fascinated me and this building together with his work was well worth the surprise.
I was fortunate enough to attend a trip in Kayalitsha planned by one such contact, Verena Grips, whose involvement with an NGO called MatchBox was of great interest towards my now narrowing focus on developing areas of South Africa.
MatchBox aims towards improving the quality of life and learning of children in townships. Verena had arranged a trip with another student who was looking into Township Tourism in South Africa.
Our tour guide took us through the centre, where we met some of local ladies who work with another group to produce hand bags to sell in market.
As the name implies the centre is overlooked by one of the higher points in Kayalitsha and offers a panoramic view of the settlement.
From here we visited the largest shopping mall in the area, the Nonqubela Link Mall , this mall sits adjacent to a train stop and between is serviced by a local market. What we found interesting was that an informal market could exist with a formal mall and still function.
View from the station platform
As part of the township tourism our guide had planned the next few stops at woman run local B&B’s. These ladies were running successfull lodging facilities and invited us in for a cup of tea and some interesting stories of foreign visitors, radio talks shows and how they share their skill base with others in the same business field.
Verena’s personal focus on creche’s and day care facilities that have been adapted from donated containers such as the Zanoxolo Educare Creche took us to some of these spots in Kayalitsha.
In true township tourism fashion we finished the day off with a visit to a local shebeen. While Mzoli’s in Gugelthu is probably the most well known of Cape Town’s township hotspots, it was Kayalitsha’s less known counterpart Ace’s that we chose as our lunchtime destination.
The workshop itself was intended for PHD candidates, but the organisers were happy to accommodate me at a pre-masters level.
The balcony of the institute became the place of dissemination of the course’s content
The workshop was attended by a diverse cross section of professionals who, like me, were interested in learning of cross-disciplinary approaches towards sustainability.
The disciplinary spectrum included; a physchologist, a graphic designer, microbiologist, nutritionists, industrial designer, IT economists, social scientists, geological and environmental scientist and even a hydrologist to name a few.
Part of the exercises involved defining the research questions and role playing processes on ascertaining how to set up a research project around a Transdisciplinary team. This exercise proved to undo much of how I had planned on tackling my thesis topic and gave me a clear insight of where to go in my masters year.
While the exercises and explanations of what Transdisciplinary Work appeared to be much in the scope of how Architects and other designers work through problems the center itself held an interest for me.
A render of the built structure as presented on the walls of the center on canvas
The building is located in the area of Lynedoch, adjacent the train station and according to the staff, the site was historical a weekend hotel for the upper echelon of Cape Society to ‘escape’ the city and enjoy a game of croquet in the Boland.
The center and the surrounding gardens
The existing hotel and new centre in contrast
The center now is a research hub for Sustainability in South Africa and is globally recognised as a leader in the field headed by Mark Swilling. For the detailed story of the Sustainability Institute click here.
Over meals provided on site by the institute gardens the informal meeting and sitting areas inside and outside proved to be the most interesting part of the week as this is where the real interdisciplinary discussion took place.
The centre was designed by Cape Town’s ARC Architects and wraps around what appears to be a cement block barn structure on site that was adapted to become a community hall for the historically disadvantaged community of Lynedoche.
The adapted barn houses a rock store in its basement that works as a thermal change mass to cool the class rooms of the primary school. The relationship between the primary school, the community came across as the strongest intangibly sustainable aspect of the entire centre. All day school children and local residents animate the and enrich the atmosphere of the institute facility.
Historic photo of construction and thermal rock store
The community hall uses a system of wind funnels and louvres to cool the space itself, while the thermal rock store serves the primary school facilities.
Wind scoops work with wind chimneys on the roof in a similar fashion to malqaf found in Islamic Architecture
The converted barn is clad with adobe bricks that serve an undefined role, perhaps only ornamental?
The center interacts closely with this community and facilitates a primary school on site as well as subsided housing on the estate as well and harvesting programs in the area along with local farmers and residents.
The thermal rock store ventilation link to cool the primary school.
Day care facility with solar roof tiles
The estate boasts an array of off grid systems that deal with waste treatment, energy & food production. These systems as well a daycare facility on site aim to provide the local residents of Lyndoche with jobs while acting as a model for socially as well as environmentally responsible facility.
A large portion of the job creation as well as the training for students comes from the garden systems on site. At the moment they grow there own vegetables on site
Recycling post and agriculture on site
An age old meeting venue, under the shade of an old tree
Indigenous tree plantation
The facility is housed by its own eco-estate. These houses work within the framework of the institute and provide research data as well as accommodation. They employ various techniques and processes to lower their respective carbon footprints.
Part of the eco estate with the black water collection pionts
When asked in December what would be an appropriate focus for a thesis topic, it seemed to continue in Slovo Park was the obvious option: strong connections with the community had been made, the context was mapped and an insight into the needs and dreams of the people had been established.
Slovo Park Group Framework (Bennett, Casson, Fillipe, Hattingh, Makgabutlane)
The first draft of the proposal I outlined the development and research of the spruit area between the two communities and an architectural investigation into how that could be done through a built intervention possibly exploring urban agriculture.
My time cross-country gave me space to reflect on my time in Slovo Park and Pretoria,bringing a more clear understanding of my role as an architect and designer in developing South Africa
The workshop at the Sustainability Institute provided me with a sharper focus on my thesis year and liberated me from my pre-conceptions of the role of architects in social upliftment and research and a result forced my decision not to work in Slovo Park in 2011.
The trip left me with more questions than answers, a disposition that I’m starting to feel is likely to be more commonplace in my year ahead while in pursuit of my Masters Degree.
Down town Maputo, known as the Baixa, is the oldest part of this city in decay. Colonised by the Portuguese in the early part of the 18th century, the city was at one stage planned to be the new capital of Portugal before the war of Independence.
This complex layering of history and site was the site of a University of Pretoria research study in July 2010.
The research project had 20 students from the University of Pretoria documenting the historical buildings of the Baixa area using a contemporary technique known as the ‘Quick Scan’. This method is a fast tracked survey technique to quickly assess the economical and historic nature of an area to communicate to governmental powers possible solutions to maintaining the historical fabric of heritage areas while planning an economical strategy around it.
The first few days were spent getting to know the area as tourists before the real mapping began.
The market was our first experience of the historical nature of Maputo being actively and sustainably used and made viable.
The Monument to the Great War, erected as a memorial to the Portuguese that died during World War I.
The Maputo Rail Station
The Netherlands Embassy
We were fortunate to get a chance to visit the Dutch Embassy during trip. Here we were joined by a wild haired passenger known as Antoni Faulkers.
No Architectural trip to Maputo would be complete without a good deal of Pancho Guedes visitiation.
This entry serves more as a photo journal of the architectural elements of the trip, and is soon to be updated with the analytical findings from the group.