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Resources.11Just Grounds: Cape Town
From the Grounds Series

Just Grounds: Cape Town

Mejan Arc - Architecture, 2011/12
Course on advanced level, 60 ECTS.

In the ongoing debate on urban ecology the question remains – what kind of life do we imagine and for who are we creating a sustainable urban future?

Africa is rapidly urbanizing. 40% of the continent’s population is now urban, but despite Africa’s extensive natural resources and strong economic growth, neither international nor local investments find their way to the cities. Basic infrastructure is still lacking and urbanization is occurring primarily in the form of slums, as silent encroachments. However, African urban researchers note that the African city should not be considered simply incomplete versions of their western counterparts. Indeed, the African city is following its own route with a very different map. These cities are growing as nodes in mutually dependent networks that span over national boundaries. Their populations are in perpetual movement – constantly in search of work and possibilities.

During the past several years, Resources has conducted research in how dwindling fossil fuels, depleted natural resources and climate change are and will continue to influence our cities and our ways of life. Within the context of the series Grounds, the discussions concern alternative concepts of development and growth, from both a global as well as an African perspective. The term spatial justice is investigated and we learn from the theoreticians and practitioners who are working to further develop this concept. Many South African urban theorists speak of an engagement in the everyday as a path forward for the African city. Can an everyday urbanism in a country with social injustice and an excess of natural resources show the way towards a resilient city?
resources09-prospect Further course info here

The Response

Today, there are already processes in place that can provide us with clues for a spatial re-thinking of a post-apartheid city. These processes are seeds that could be seen as potentials for a more just and sustainable development and perhaps even starting points that could be reformulated to create new visions with implications on a broader scale. When entering Cape Town and Cape Flats, we chose to look at a few, very specific projects that manifest these ongoing processes. Focus was placed on projects within the realms of education, food production, crime prevention and public initiatives. We call them our Seeds of Change.

Small scale Interventions with a Global Perspective

Cape Town is as an urban system of various and sometimes conflicting driving forces and actors that interact in complex ways from the local to global level. How would it be possible to influence and have an impact on these systems? One approach is to enhance change based on the most small-scale innovations at the grassroots level by putting processes in motion for these seeds to prosper, grow and reach out.

Enabling Conditions for People to Become Providers for Themselves

To have an impact on their own future, people have to become owners of Cape Town’s future. This is predicated on the fact that they have the appropriate knowledge, competency, leadership skills and networks to develop and spread their expertise and innovations. Creating enabling conditions in both physical and non-physical spaces for people to develop their initiatives could help them become providers for themselves and their communities.

Strengthening the Intermediate Space

In the gap between public, civil and market involvement exists an unutilized potential for change. By creating and strengthening intermediate physical and social spaces where people and innovations can meet – new relations, collaborations and deals can emerge. Individual initiatives and actors could connect with each other in the local community and other parts of the city, creating a sense of reciprocity that is spread in the community.
Year Schedule here