THE BACKGROUND TO THE SEMINAR: UIA2014 DURBAN LEGACY
This seminar was conceived as a continuation of a keynote panel that was delivered as a part of the UIA 2014 Durban Congress. Initially called “voices from Warwick”, the decision was later taken to expanded the topic and link the issues emerging in Warwick, Durban with global debates on markets and malls, public space and protest as well as decision-making processes in areas of contestation – therefore including voices from Turkey, Brazil and Egypt. More may be read at this link: (http://www.uia2014durban.org/programme/global_debates_on_access_to_the_city_warwick_voices_as.htm)
INTRODUCTION BY AMIRA OSMAN
2014 was a special year for architecture and design in South Africa. With a number of major events including Cape Town World Design Capital, SA Cities Transformation conference hosted by the SA Cities Network, Planning Africa’s “making great places”. But without any doubt, the largest and the most significant event was UIA2014 Durban. Sometimes referred to as the World Cup of Architecture, brining the event to SA was conceptualised and championed by a small core group of people who worked on the “project” for over 10 years from the first bid till the event was realised.
With over 4500 delegates from over 100 countries, UIA2014 was an unprecedented opportunity to send a powerful message in terms of architectural thinking and practice. Indeed, everyone involved harnessed this opportunity fully and the event focussed on transformation, the role of designers/architects in cities, towards the poor and the pedestrian and the celebration of the everyday.
UIA2014 ended with a powerful student charter (http://www.uia2014durban.org/resources/media/UIA2014studentcharterspeech.pdf) and congress declaration (http://www.uia2014durban.org/resources/media/14082014_closingSCspeechandcongressdeclaration_final.pdf) which the organisers hoped would be taken into studios, campuses, offices and communities transforming the way we think, design and practice – ultimately transforming space in SA towards the achievement of spatial equity and justice. Many saw the Durban event as having the potential to introduce a new paradigm in the profession and this is still to be assessed and it is to be seen how the event may have influenced the direction of future UIA events.
As General Reporter my roles in the event were very diverse but included directing the Scientific Committee towards curating of the diverse plenary sessions under the theme of OTHERWHERE which was interpreted as OTHERthinking and OTHERpractice. One of the sessions that generated great media attention and great controversy was intended to bring the voices from the much-disputed Warwick Triangle into the event. 6000 informal traders operate in this area next to a train station. The markets of Warwick are well-documented and apparently generate an income for Durban that is comparable to the large shopping centres in the city. Yet the city has an uncomfortable relationship with Warwick. The head of Durban City Architects (at the time) spoke at the session saying that “the city got it wrong” when it focussed on meeting the needs of the soccer word cup visitors rather than the needs of the locals when it moved away from area-based planning and consultation. This was front page news the following day.
VOICES FROM WARWICK AT UIA2014 DURBAN
Ma Dlamini (multi trader) and Money Govender (early morning vegetable market) are both traders at Warwick and spoke at the event about the heritage of the site and the importance of the informal networks that support the livelihoods of of numerous people and that should not be disrupted. Yet, the city is planning a mall at Warwick which would do just that. Warwick is therefore under constant threat and could undergo major disruptions to these fragile livelihoods and many people beyond the confines of Warwick.
The closing speech at he congress tried to reflect some of the voices that emerged at the event and included the voices from Warwick:
- We hear your plea Money Govendar – a vegetable trader at the early morning market in Warwick – for architects to partner with you against the building of a Mall at Warwick and the inevitable destruction of small-scale businesses and livlihoods.
- We hear you Ma Dhlamini – a trader at the Warwick muti market – when you ask us to help you lobby the city for better service delivery at Warwick.
Ma Dlamini, trader and community leader in the Warwick muti market and UIA2014 speaker, portrayed on a painting at Warwick by renowned artist, Faith. Photographer: Luca Barausse; source uia2014durban.org
The Warwick case led us to explore issues of ethics in practice in areas of contestation and with vulnerable groups and fragile economic ecosystems. We did try to invite architects involved in the design of the mall but received to response to this. It is these kind of debates that we need to become involved in a educators. How can we practice in these areas of contestation?
CHALLENGES EMERGING FOR ARCHITECTURE EDUCATORS
These kind of debates allow us to assess whether what we teach is relevant for students who will graduate to be confronted with complexity and the need to be able to articulate a professional position as well as have the skills required to perform effectively. Professional accountability is a topic that is not given enough consideration in teaching and practice – especially in the built environment disciplines in the service of poor communities. We need to set guidelines to incorporate ethical considerations fully in the design process and to make this measurable.
Our professional values influence our design decision-making and teaching strategies and have spatial and technical implications. UIA2014 speaker, Hilton Judin, made the comment that “architecture is political. Design decisions are always “value-laden”. They are a reflection of what we believe about space, poverty and access to the city.
Could we conceptualise a new way of designing and building in the interest of spatial equity, access to opportunity, efficiency in design, finance, management, maintenance and implementation – and how should this influence the way in which we teach?
Could we equip architecture graduates to have a better understanding of how their future practice may contribute towards addressing some of the built environment challenges facing South Africa? What tools could we use to make our teaching more effective in this regard? Could we develop alternative design methods/industries and work across the various design (and other) disciplines to better address the needs of communities at local level?
The intention is to have diverse voices representing different approaches and better articulating the position of architects and designers operating in areas, and with topics, of complexity – and how educators could be more responsive to these dynamics. The speakers are listed below, with brief abstracts of their presentations as well as links to the full presentations as an additional resource.
UJ/STAND and UJ_UNIT2 WORKSHOP (29th May 2015): TEACHING FOR ETHICAL RELEVANCE IN ARCHITECTURE
Jolanda Morkel (CPUT)
Jolanda built up a convincing argument around the need for blended learning and diverse methods of teaching, using technology to mediate between different sites of learning. She started off by expressing the need to adapting education methodologies to align with the needs of dynamic practice environments – creating authentic learning where the learning environment reflects real life. The sites of learning are identified as the workplace (learning in practice), the campus (learning for practice) and the community (learning through practice). The various characteristics and challenges of these diverse sites of learning reflect aspects such as the immediacy of working on site, delivery a direct service to communities through design/build projects compared with a slower, experimental environment offered by the studio on campus as well as the more chances to re-visit design decisions made in the studio and office environments.
In the particular field of architecture, shifts in teaching methods from “apprenticeship” to “academia” were acknowledged and the challenges of the studio environment were discussed. The types of knowledge were identified as to value, to know and to act. The full presentation can be found at this link (https://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/embed_code/key/433iUK2orly2OV)
(Jolanda Morkel is a registered architect and senior lecturer in the Department of Architectural Technology and Interior Design at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Cape Town. She is the co-ordinator of the part time blended BTech programme, offered in collaboration with OpenArchitecture. Her current research focus includes architectural design education, online learning and learning design. She is busy with doctoral studies in the field of instructional technology in architecture, exploring the mediation and facilitation of the online design studio).
Blanca Calvo Boixet (SDI and 1to1)
Blanca started her talk with interesting reflections on the difference between equity, equality and justice and spatial equity – and how these concepts translate into urban space and service delivery. The concept of professional ethics, architect’s ethics and how this affects practice was demonstrated through the modes of practice of Shack Dwellers International (SDI). The designers role in these processes is unpacked. The full presentation is available at this link (http://www.slideshare.net/BlancaCalvo/stand-blanca-calvo).
(Blanca Calvo currently works for the South African Shack Dwellers International Alliance through their local NGO uTshani, where she provides socio-technical design and research support to the various community based organisations under the SASDI alliance. Blanca has been trained as an architect in her home city of Barcelona and completed an additional masters in urban planning through the Mundus Erasmus programme with a focus on development planning which she undertook while completing an internship through 1to1 – Agency of Engagement in Johannesburg, South Africa).
Carin Combrinck (UP)
(Images from http://www.designsocietydevelopment.org/project/the-slovo-park-project/ and http://1to1.org.za/portfolio-item/slovo-park-project/ respectively)
Carin presented on her PhD which can be summarised as follows: “Informal urbanism is regarded as a global concern challenging formal systems of governance, economy and social justice. The architectural profession is largely considered to be marginal to this discourse, with recognised contributions seen as intermittent, exceptional and once off. The research is interested in determining the causal factors contributing to this continued marginality and determining whether it is possible to mitigate such apparent indifference. It investigates the current discourse internationally as it pertains to the global south, as well as in the South African context to establish some of the noted contributions made by architects and how this has resonated within the debate. From this reflection, main issues underpinning the conditions surrounding informal urbanism are extrapolated, that in turn contribute to the identification of certain key factors that can be considered causal to the marginality of the profession. The research will illustrate that the process of architectural engagement requires transformation in order to be more responsive to the complexity of the circumstances surrounding informal settlement upgrade.
Learning from internationally accepted methods of engagement, it is proposed that the Community Action Planning method developed by Goethert & Hamdi (1997) can serve as a basis for such transformative practices, inasmuch as it requires augmentation in order to be successfully applied to architectural design processes.
Applying this proposed method to a studio module in a school of architecture over a period of four years, the research illustrates that key issues contributing to the existing marginality of the profession can be mitigated to a certain degree, with the understanding that such an approach is required at various levels of professional
education and praxis to ensure true transformation.” (http://www.up.ac.za/en/architecture/news/post_2084845-invitation-to-phd-presentation-carin-combrinck)
(For most of my adulthood, I have been an architect. I was educated as well as trained in architecture, revelled in it, thrilled to it and practiced (at) it for about fifteen years before teaching it to other young adults. In the process of teaching much un-learning has happened, revealing aspects of the humanism of architecture that have always appealed to me: implicit to my experience, yet less explicit in the intentions proclaimed in the profession. My career has continually folded itself into the complex narrative of my family, thereby grounding it in that wonderful tapestry called life).