The much anticipated Treetop Walkway through the Arboretum in Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is now open to the public. Located 11 metres above the ground, the galvanised steel and timber structure offers breathtaking views from the treetops. The project, a collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and Henry Fagan & Partners consulting engineers, has been nicknamed Boomslang - a large, highly venomous African tree snake – due to its elevated, twisting form. Check out the stunning photographs by Adam Harrower, a horticulturist at the garden, after the break.
The Guga S’Thebe Arts and Cultural Centre in Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township, is expanding to include a theatre exclusively for children and adolescents. The main component of the theatre, set for completion this fall, will be a large, multi-functional space for hosting performances. The project, a collaborative effort between future users and international architecture students, is aimed at stimulating sustainable development while widening the possibilities for the target demographic. To check out more project images, continue after the break.
How do you undo centuries of inequality? How do you overturn an inequality so ingrained in a culture that it manifests itself physically - in the architecture of its homes and in the misshapen nature of its cities?
This is the question post-apartheid South Africa has been struggling to answer for the past twenty years. And while the government has made many concerted efforts, for far too many the situation has remained largely the same.
However, there are currents of change afoot. Many who have been marginalized are now working to defeat the stigma and legitimize their communities, and they are enlisting architects to the fray. From an organization in Capetown that aims to transform the role of the South African designer, to another in Johannesburg that uses design to legitimize informal architecture, to a project in one of the most violent townships in South Africa that has transformed a community, the following three projects are making a difference for the users who have the most to gain from their designs and design-thinking. All three represent not only the power of design to defeat stigma and instill dignity, but also the power of communities to incite these projects, make them their own, and enable them to thrive.
The history of Johannesburg‘s Ponte City Apartments is a provocative one: built in 1975 and designed by Manfred Hermer as the height of luxurious (white-only) living in South Africa, the continent’s tallest residential building soon became a notorious vertical slum, filled with crime and poverty, its signature hollow core re-purposed as a trash dump and a suicide drop.
Since 2001, however, the building has been the centerpiece of a drive to regenerate the wider Hillbrow neighborhood. The building is gentrifying once again – an almost color-coded gentrification as white people move back into the tower, mostly taking the more expensive upper apartments. However, as the video by Vocative shows, in the case of Ponte, gentrification is not as simple as elsewhere: heavy security eases the fears of middle class residents in what is still one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Johannesburg. As the video shows, there’s a palpable excitement that, finally, the building is becoming a truly multi-ethnic community.
Despite 20 years of government promises to improve the quality of housing following the end of apartheid, for many in South Africa‘s townships there has been little noticeable change. This is not to say that the South African government has not been working to meet these goals; however, the scale of the problem is so large, and with population growth and migration, the challenge is only getting greater.
Imagine forty-two, 33 meter high concrete tubes each with a diameter of 5.5 meters, with no open space to experience the volume from within. The brief from the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) for London-based Heatherwick Studio was to “reimagine the Grain Silo Complex at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront with an architectural intervention inspired by its own historic character,” calling for a “solution unique for Africa” in order to create “the highest possible quality of exhibition space for the work displayed inside.” Heatherwick’s response will be the creation of a “a new kind of museum in an African context.”
Architects: StudioMAS, Luis Mira Architects, Sergio Aguilar
Location: Cape Town, South Africa
Design Team: Sean Mahoney (StudioMas), Michael Lumby (StudioMas), Charlton Botha (StudioMas), Sergio Aguilar (Plus Arquitectura), Katie Irvine and Luis Mira
Principal Agent: Luis Mira Architects
Area: 1610.0 sqm
Photographs: Wieland Gleich
Inhabitat has just featured an unlikely new student housing project in Johannesburg: Mill Junction, a student complex that consists of two former grain silos topped with shipping containers. According to its developers, Citiq Property Developers, the energy and money-saving project re-directs money towards communal facilities, proving popular with students. As a result, Mill Junction, the second shipping-container housing project built by the Developers, may be the second of many more. More info at Inhabitat.
On the twentieth anniversary of South Africa’s re-birth, the UIA Congress will celebrate the African profession as a meaningful contributor to world architecture and thought leadership in city development; as well as the continent’s contribution in the affairs and evolution of architecture globally.
Architects, engineers, designers, technologists, planners, thinkers and writers from all over the world will gather, with the public, for a week of lively and challenging talks, workshops, events and happenings.
South Africa’s concerns are strongly linked to Africa’s concerns. 2014 acknowledges the link between urgent human need for housing, infrastructure, basic services, employment and social development are acknowledged as being strongly linked to political decisions and economies. UIA 2014 is an opportunity for African architects to make their mark in the debate that perceives poverty eradication as a first unavoidable step in human progress. 2014 will explore how architects might play a pivotal role in addressing social inequalities. 2014 also explores concepts of sustainability through links to OTHER global initiatives and refers to COP 17 (Built Environment Charter) and RIO+20 (Soil Programme) – with a focus on urbanisation and the agricultural opportunities in and on the peripheries of cities.
TC Design Architects have been announced as one of the four winners in a country-wide architectural competition to design the University of Mpumalanga in Nelspruit, the first public university in South Africa since the end of Apartheid. Of 147 architectural practices, the Department of Higher Education and Training has narrowed the pool of entries down to TC Design, Conco Bryan Architects, Cohen and Garson, and Gapp Architects & Urban Designers.
More on TC Design’s proposal after the break…
From the window of an airplane it’s all too plain that apartheid has been deeply written into the South African landscape. Even the smallest town appears as two distinct towns. One features a spacious grid of tree-lined streets and comfortable houses surrounded by lawns. The other, its shriveled twin, some distance away but connected by a well-traveled road, consists of a much tighter grid of dirt roads lined with shacks. Trees are a rarity, lawns non-existent. This doubling pattern appears no matter the size of the population: here, the white town; over there, the black township. — Lisa Findley, “Red & Gold: A Tale of Two Apartheid Museums.”
There are few systems of government that relied so heavily upon the delineations of space than the Apartheid government of South Africa (1948-1994). Aggressively wielding theories of Modernism and racial superiority, South Africa’s urban planners didn’t just enforce Apartheid, they embedded it into every city – making it a daily, degrading experience for South Africa’s marginalized citizens.
When Nelson Mandela and his party, the African National Congress, were democratically elected to power in 1994, they recognized that one of the most important ways of diminishing Apartheid’s legacy would be spatial: to integrate the white towns and the black townships, and revive those “shriveled twin[s].”
As we remember Mandela – undoubtedly the most important man in South Africa’s history – and ponder his legacy, we must also consider his spatial legacy. It is in the physical, spatial dimensions of South Africa’s towns and cities that we can truly see Apartheid’s endurance, and consider: to what extent have Mandela’s words of reconciliation and righteous integration, truly been given form?