South African urban design spaces
Did you know?
Durban’s Warwick Junction is the centre for herbal and traditional medicine trade in KwaZulu–Natal.
Since the democratic elections of 1994, South African urban design spaces have undergone dramatic change. A great re-imagining of our urban world is taking place.
During the 5 decades of apartheid – and even in the 2 centuries of colonial control that preceded apartheid – urban design in South Africa was all about building buffer areas between social groups.
Then came a period of inner-city neglect, where the infrastructure of the central business districts (CBDs) of many of our major metropolitan centres began to disintegrate. This caused a flight to the suburbs, and the growth of gated communities.
This period of flux did not initially provide much opportunity for the development of urban design spaces.
However, by collective will of the South African people and the initiatives of city architects, South African design spaces have sprung up all over the country and are rescuing the CBDs of Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban at last.
Urban design connects people and places, exploits the relationship between movement, the urban form, nature and the ‘built fabric’, as design lingo would have it. Hard-wired into an urban designer’s vision should be a desire for social equity, environmental stewardship, the economics of development and a transportation system that networks it all together.
All of this means bringing the formerly divided Rainbow Nation together in public spaces in South Africa which can be shared, admired and owned by everyone.
Take, for instance, the semi-CBD area of Braamfontein in Johannesburg. A complex of shops, work spaces and coffee bars called 70 Juta has been established and connected through a central inner courtyard. 70 Juta is now an urban oasis for commuters, students and businesspeople who move through Braamfontein. It’s not only functional, but beautifully quirky in design as well.
One of the finest legacies of the 2010 World Cup is the Cape Town Fan Walk, a 2.6km protected pedestrian walking route from Cape Town Station to the Cape Town Stadium. The design and development of this urban space now means it can be used by office workers in the day and clubbers and night owls after dark.
Durban also uses a major railway station (in this case, the Berea Station) as an anchor point for its exciting Warwick Junction urban design project. It also allows the hundreds of formerly vulnerable hawkers to be part of the massive trading machine that is Warwick Junction.
As a transformational tool, urban design spaces in South Africa offer a chance for its mixed-background citizens to mingle, communicate and get to know each other better.
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