Cities

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"The Johannesburg we need": Yasmeen Dinath on the JDA and UN-Habitat's 'New Urban Agenda'

Johannesburg, 20 September 2016 — In March 2016 UN-Habitat released a document ('The City We Need') summarizing a common vision for a 'New Urban Agenda', to be delivered at the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III). We spoke with Yasmeen Dinath, ‎Planning Manager of the ‘Planning and Strategy’ team at the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), exploring whether and how these principles are being enacted in Johannesburg.
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Can art help heal the lingering effects of apartheid planning?

Johannesburg, 8 August 2016 — Subjected to the constraints of apartheid planning and legislation during the height of the former regime, the suburb of Westbury in Johannesburg still experiences the resultant hardships of this spatial legacy. Artist and architect Lorenzo Nassimbeni was commissioned to create a public mural to adorn the walls and amphitheater of a major public space investment into the area and showed how art can be a medium for social change.
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How normal is society’s normality? ‘The Ma(i)de Sessions’ – a talk show with domestic workers

Johannesburg, 13 July 2016 — The affluent suburbs of South African cities are served by a massive domestic work force. During apartheid, black women became domestic workers for white households due to restrictions on the jobs black people could perform. While rights, wages, legislation and living conditions all remain key issues, one team has branched away from traditional activism to establish a talk show called the ‘The Ma(i)de Sessions’, to speak with and about South African society from the point of view of one its most ubiquitous but invisible peoples.
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Interactive and Incremental Processes and Possibilities: An interview with Monica Albonico of Albonico Sack Metacity

Johannesburg, 20 June 2016 — Albonico Sack Metacity, Architects and Urban Designers (ASM), established in 1986 and based in the inner city of Johannesburg, consists of two members and a core team of architects and urban designers involved in public and private projects in South Africa, Africa, and further afield. They believe in working with collective processes for contextually relevant and sustainable change. We spoke to Monica Albonico, a principal of ASM, about the development of their work and ideas in the Johannesburg context. See more.

Digitizing Joburg

Johannesburg, 10 May 2016 — As part of its "Smart City" initiative, the City of Johannesburg is currently laying out hundreds of kilometers of fiber-optic networks to provide 1000 free Wi-Fi hotspots across the city ("the most ambitious... in the southern hemisphere"), while committing itself to providing extensive digital literacy training to entrepreneurial youth known as “Digital Ambassadors." But we need to remember that effective developmental infrastructure is as much an ongoing social process as it is a technological one. See more.

Bridging the Pedestrian Gap: Johannesburg’s attempt to pedestrianize a car-oriented city

Johannesburg, 13 April 2016 — The Transit Oriented Development strategy of the City of Johannesburg is producing a series of interventions intended to ease vehicular traffic and increase pedestrian safety, particularly along the BRT transit lines (known as the 'Corridors of Freedom'). A new pedestrian bridge or 'skywalk' is currently planned over one of the urban Corridors, the 'Empire-Perth Corridor', over the prominent intersection between the University of Johannesburg campus and a shopping mall. However, even where intentions are genuine, the bridge proposal also underlines many of the challenges in reshaping transportation for more pedestrian friendly, transit-oriented and cities. See more.

Building the Public City: Public space and public engagement practices in Johannesburg’s inner city

Johannesburg, 14 March 2016 — As Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure – the "Corridors of Freedom" – continues to be rolled out across Johannesburg, plans are underway for existing proximate social facilities to be supported by new developments to form neighbourhood "social clusters," which can potentially serve communities in ways that the BRT itself cannot. Critical, then, is the level of local engagement, inclusion, and ownership that these local developments build. See more.

What does participatory urban design look like?

Johannesburg, 4 February 2016 — As Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) infrastructure – the "Corridors of Freedom" – continues to be rolled out across Johannesburg, plans are underway for existing proximate social facilities to be supported by new developments to form neighbourhood "social clusters," which can potentially serve communities in ways that the BRT itself cannot. Critical, then, is the level of local engagement, inclusion, and ownership that these local developments build. See more.

The politics of ecological and sustainable development

Johannesburg, 4 January 2016 — Spatial planning and design in South Africa are beginning to explore the transformative potential of using neglected natural systems to restructure the built heritage of colonial or apartheid urban geography, such as competition proposals for an inner-city urban park and a current project at Wemmer Pan and Pioneer Park, both in Johannesburg. But perpetuation of the status quo elsewhere, such as the “Two Rivers Urban Park” mega-project in Cape Town, shows that strategic integrative design-thinking at the city-scale remains elusive. See more.

Global crises, local resilience: From COP 21 back to reality

Johannesburg, 18 December 2015 — In South African cities, climate awareness has increasingly become a part of mainstream political discourse. However, with few exceptions, these climate strategies tend to be a projection of "first world" norms, overly narrow in their scope, and similarly do not engage the socio-political and human rights issues that they are confronted by in their local contexts. In a diverse Johannesburg neighborhood, the Brixton Community Forum organized an event to engage all stakeholders to find ways to creatively build water-sensitive public and domestic spaces in city-identified densification zones. See more.