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Slum upgrading on the racially divided edges of Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 15 October 2015 — Johannesburg’s economic and spatial fragmentation – largely along racial lines – has given rise to informal settlements along apartheid-era buffer zones and at the outskirts of the city, perpetuating a landscape shaped by deep inequalities. This month we spoke to Dr. Costanza La Mantia, who recently organised an International Trans-disciplinary Workshop held at the University of the Witwatersrand in collaboration with Politecnico di Milano on patterns of peripheral poverty, using Kya Sands informal settlement on the northern outskirts of Johannesburg as a case study. The workshop aimed at collaboratively developing an incremental and integrative upgrading strategy, using design as an exploratory tool to foster negotiations and collaborations. See more.

City BRT, neighbourhood BRT, and the "Corridors of Freedom": Image and reality in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 15 October 2015 — Touted as the "Corridors of Freedom" by the City of Johannesburg, the city’s BRT system has the potential to improve mobility and accessibility and to even restructure the ‘apartheid city’. But one recent study by researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand’s urban resilience research programme and the South African Cities Network revealed many contradictions at the neighbourhood level. Private investment, densification and land development activity therefore must be guided, local impact must be of equal importance to city scale planning, and legal, financial, and spatial instruments need to be aligned. See more.

Planning between the local and the global in Johannesburg's Spatial Development Framework

Johannesburg, 23 September 2015 — This article is the second in a series on the shaping of the City of Johannesburg's current Spatial Development Framework (Joburg SDF). This month we spoke to Rogier van den Berg of The Urban Planning and Design LAB, United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) – international planning consultants for the Joburg SDF – to discuss the relationship between local efforts and global goals. See more.

Answering xenophobia: The rise of a Johannesburg soccer team

Johannesburg, 27 August 2015 — In a context where poor South Africans struggle to find work and service delivery promises are often perceived as empty, it is often African foreigners with whom they live side by side who become the targets for anger and frustration. In May 2008 and April 2015, these frustrations exploded into countrywide xenophobic attacks. In 2008 a Johannesburg-based NPO, the Sultan Bahu Centre, went into areas where attacks took place to try to use soccer as a means around which to build bridges and to help to integrate foreign nationals back into society. A soccer team known as "Sultan Bahu FC" was formed, whose ethos was matched only by its stunning success. See more.

Politics, passengers and practice: There's a lot riding on Johannesburg's BRT

Johannesburg, 27 July 2015 — Political transformation in South Africa also meant spatial transformation, significantly predicated on public transport. With the Gautrain Rapid Rail Link, the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Programme and associated e-tolling, and municipal Bus Rapid Transit infrastructure underway in Johannesburg and the Gauteng Province, the Gauteng City-Region Observatory has suggested that "the region appears to be in a new 'golden era' of transit infrastructure design and investment." See more.

Who is planning for? Planning with urbanisation and informality in Johannesburg's Spatial Development Framework

Johannesburg, 22 June 2015 — Johannesburg remains the focal point for economic opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa and is the largest city in South Africa. Facing global challenges such as increasing urbanisation and economic inequality, the City's current Spatial Development Framework is being prepared to guide public and private investment toward not only accommodating a growing population and an increase in informality, but using these to drive growth and urban sustainability. See more.

Between state and society: the work of the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa

Johannesburg, 26 May 2015 — While South Africans all signed up to a new constitutional path in the immediate post-apartheid era, constitutional ideals at times also appear to be flouted both by government and by society. The Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa is one notable non-profit organisation seeking to bridge such divides. Building on the nation's constitutional framework, it provides dedicated socio-economic rights assistance for individuals, communities, and social movements. See more.

Poverty, the corporate sector, and South Africa's energy crisis: a solar-powered light and Internet access for those with little or no access to electricity

Johannesburg, 28 April 2015 — Recently South Africans were shocked to find themselves in the midst of a national energy crisis. With energy firmly in the spotlight, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is slowly emerging in the private sector as one avenue through which to begin responding to these challenges. Net1 Mobile's Sun-e-light is one such CSR initiative, providing solar-powered light and Internet aimed at those with little or no access to electricity. See more.

Building strategic intelligence for 'city-regions': an interview with Guy Trangoš on the Gauteng City-Region Observatory in South Africa

Johannesburg, 25 March 2015 — Extending beyond traditionally more spatially delimited notions of a city, many modern cities now approximate to large, polycentric 'city-regions' with multiple governance structures. Centred round South Africa's Gauteng province, the Gauteng City-Region is a cluster of cities (Johannesburg and Pretoria), towns, and urban nodes that together make up the economic heartland and most densely populated part of the country. In 2008 the Gauteng City-Region Observatory' was established to build "strategic intelligence" to grasp this large, complex, and dynamic space. See more.

The urban school and holistic education: The Westbury Youth Centre model in Johannesburg

Johannesburg, 26 February 2015 — Westbury is an urban neighbourhood in Johannesburg which has suffered from decades of marginalization. Forced to look inward for solutions, it has displayed enormous ingenuity and resourcefulness, forming an innovative and holistic youth center and secondary school 'co-curricular' support model. But the City's spatial transformation projects should assist in bringing about change within disenfranchised communities. See more.