African liveability

5 thought-provoking presentations from the 3rd Annual City Development conference

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Pressing issues facing the making of cities in Africa came to the fore this week as delegates from both the private and the public sector gathered at the 3rd Annual City Development conference, held at 15 on Orange in Cape Town.

Running over three days, the conference focused on three main themes – ‘urban transformation & city-making’, ‘infrastructure development & financing’ and ‘smart cities’ – with more than 30 presentations delving into a diverse and fascinating range of topics.

Here’s a round-up of a few that stood out:

Transit-oriented Development in Cape Town: 5 catalytic projects to keep an eye on

Philippi Transport node.

Philippi Transport node.

In March 2016 Transport for Cape Town (TCT) adopted an ambitious new approach to integrated spatial and transport planning as part of an effort to accelerate the eradication of apartheid spatial planning and solve a number of related issues. Known as the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Strategic Framework, it prescribes how new developments across Cape Town, paired with the transformation of existing public infrastructure can help alleviate traffic congestion, push down public transport prices, create affordable housing close to jobs and stimulate economic growth.

Of course, this isn’t the sort of plan that simply gets rolled out overnight. So, the City of Cape Town identified five projects across the metro that could serve as catalysts in getting TOD off the ground:

- revitalisation of the Bellville CBD through the Voortrekker Road Corridor

- reimagining Philippi East transport node

- redevelopment of the Athlone Power Station grounds

- mixed-use housing development at Paardevlei in Somerset West

- breathing new life into the foreshore precinct through redesigning it.

During his presentation, Councillor Brett Herron emphasised that these projects aim to reimagine and revitalise Cape Town within the next five years and that each offers a multitude of opportunities for economic growth and social cohesion.

Read more about the first two TOD projects currently in the making

A collaboration to create integrated affordable housing: Conradie Better Living Model 

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As one of the 7 Game Changers aimed at improving the lives of citizens prioritised by the Western Cape Government, the Conradie Better Living Model is a project that envisages the development of the  22ha former Conradie Hospital site into an integrated, sustainable and affordable residentially-led, mixed-use neighbourhood.

Located to the west of Thornton and the northeast of Pinelands, the close proximity to various established transport modes is expected to be one of the greatest selling points.

It is envisaged the development will result in:

  • a high-density, high-rise, residentially led development;
  • commercial and retail  business opportunities;
  • a safe and secure environment;
  • active streets, low car dependencies and walkable living spaces;
  • parks and other well-designed recreational spaces;
  • new schools;
  • the integration of different communities and income groups; and
  • government and public services being brought closer to citizens.

The Better Living Model will specifically also assist in alleviating the problem of affordable, integrated housing in the city. The plan is to construct more than 3000 residential units on the property of which 49% will be reserved for people earning between R3500 and R15000 a month.

This multi-million rand project will be developed through a partnership between the Western Cape Government, the City of Cape Town, and the private sector.

Find out more about it on the Western Cape Government website

Transforming shipping containers into inspiring spaces

Grade R classroom at Vissershok Primary School.

Grade R classroom at Vissershok Primary School.

Since founding Tsai Design Studio in 2005, Cape Town-based Y Tsai has managed to build a reputation as a young architect who enjoys the challenge of producing designs that are provocative, yet instilled with a strong sense of social and cultural relevance.

While his work spans a range of disciplines – architecture, interiors and industrial design – it’s his transformation of Safmarine shipping containers into spaces that nurture and enrich that really grabbed our attention. In his presentation, Tsai shared two of these impressive projects – a classroom for 25 Grade R learners at Vissershok Primary School and an attractive green-inspired outlet for the Spinach King at Khayelitsha Mall. Both projects saw Tsai overcoming spatial challenges and location difficulties to create something that is not only eye-catching but also accessible, welcoming and inspiring.

It prompted various audience members to express their interest in incorporating the transformation of unused shipping containers into public spaces, acting both as feature and semi-permanent infrastructure.

Find out more about his work on the Tsai Design Studio website.   

Shaping the African city using design innovation & dialogue

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As Africa moves toward the mark of 55% urbanisation by 2050, the need to reimagine our cities is becoming ever more pertinent. Although it may be tempting to simply impose blueprints of European or Asian cities that seem to work well on the continent’s urban areas, there’s a real danger of further entrenching the divides brought on by colonialism. Instead, African cities should be designed for Africans and the only way to find out what this looks like is to go down to grassroots level, engage in dialogue and find solutions that work for the people who navigate the streets daily.

Engineering and design firm Aurecon, has committed itself to this cause through the ‘Our African City‘ website, a collaborative platform it hopes will spark dialogue around inclusive transformation. During his presentation, Aurecon director Abbas Jamie stated that their guiding principle is to uncover the all-important why behind every development, in order to create better and more user-friendly spaces. “Great designs inspire, so we need the same approach for designing our future African cities,” he said.

In order to do this, Aurecon has started partnering with storytellers and creatives to gain a better understanding of the African urban landscape. The Afrikanist in Motion project with photographer Yasser Booley just kicked off and will see him traversing the continent using only public transport and documenting his journey as he goes. Of course, the types of stories he unearths will be able to offer Aurecon (and anyone following his trip) insights into the African public transport system that reports and statistics cannot do.

Find out more about the work being done through Our African City on the Aurecon website

Is placemaking really the all-new trend we often make it out to be?

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Pic: Lisa Burnell

In a truly fascinating presentation, head of urban design at dhk, Guy Briggs explored the concept of ‘sense of place’, defining it as being determined by how much human attachment any given space inspires. He argued that while placemaking seems to be an all new focus in city-making, it’s really just a return to ancient principles.

He asked the question: “How is it that all historic cities seem to have a sense of place?”

Using the examples of a number of significant ancient cities, he unpacked the following reasons for their continual draw:

- topographic specificity

- climatic specificity

- material specificity i.e. buildings are made from materials that are immediately available, giving natural homogeneity to the city

-  cultural specificity

With the rise of 20th-century urbanism, we lost this tendency toward specificity as a general top-down approach saw developers forcing their own views upon the general populace. Cities started being designed for automobiles instead of people and urban sprawl became the order of the day, leading many urban areas into a type of ‘notopia‘.

As it became clear that the connection between cities and their people was growing ever more tenuous, and places were losing their souls, a strong reaction against 20th-century urbanism developed – expressed in an increased drive toward preservation, urban activism, new urbanism and ultimately placemaking as the dominant agenda once more.

Find out more about Briggs’ work on the dhk website.

Featured image: Charles Forerunner/StockSnap

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