Category Archives: Participation & Engagement

Djenne: An Evolving Cultural Landscape

See on Scoop.itUrban Choreography

Who manages a cultural landscape that has global importance? Does the United Nations have final say or the local community? It turns out a complex web of interests shape these evolving cultural lan…

Donovan Gillman‘s insight:

Whose culture is it anyway?

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Food Security, Food Gardens and Social Responsibility Investment

This information from Eddie Bisset of  Herbex whose Happy Child Foundation have been involved in helping Khayelitsha home owners with establishing food gardens as part of their on going social responsibility investment.

Benji at the centres veggie garden
Benji at the centres veggie garden

We have been working on a ‘backyard veggie garden’ project in Khayelitsha to increase food security and reduce malnutrition.
This project will be established in Nganini shack land which has over 70% unemployment and zero facilities.

We are in co-operation with Benji of Inity to roll out this initiative.He has identified 15 home owners who are prepared to use their little plots to establish veggie gardens.
The Happy Child Foundation is funding this project with an initial investment of nearly R40,000.

Yesterday Andre, Nichelle and I went out with Benji and met some of the homeowners involved in the project.
These are all wonderful people with little hope of stable employment.To put you in the picture I’ve used one family’s story as an example.

Continue reading Food Security, Food Gardens and Social Responsibility Investment

Stronger Citizens, Stronger Cities: Changing Governance Through a Focus on Place

A welcome emphasis on actor-network associations and the politics of place rather that the usual focus on the built environment’s morphology , the paving, benches and “littering” the site with street furniture by 

caption / Photo: PPS

“If vibrancy is people, then the only way to make a city vibrant again is to make room for more of them.” / Photo: PPS

A great place is something that everybody can create. If vibrancy is people, as we argued two weeks ago, the only way to make a city vibrant again is to make room for more of them. Today, in the first of a two-part follow up, we will explore how Placemaking, by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog, makes room both physically and philosophically by re-framing citizenship as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors. The result is not merely vibrancy, but equity.

In equitable places, individual citizens feel (first) that they are welcome, and (second) that it is within their power to change those places through their own actions. “The huge problem with citizenship today is that people don’t take it very seriously,” says Harry Boyte, director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship at Augsburg College. “The two dominant frameworks for citizenship in political theory,” he explains, “are the liberal framework, where citizens are voters and consumers of goods, and the communitarian framework, where citizens are volunteers and members of communities. In other words, for most people, citizenship is doing good deeds, or it’s voting and getting things. We need to develop the idea of civic agency, where citizens are co-creators of democracy and the democratic way of life.”

It is bewildering, when you take a step back, to realize how far we’ve gotten away from that last statement. We have completely divorced governance from citizenship, and built thick silo walls around government by creating an opaque, discipline-driven approach to problem-solving. Busting those silo walls is imperative to creating more equitable communities. Rather than trying, haplessly, to solve transportation, housing, or health problems separately, as if they exist within a vacuum, government should be focused on building stronger place.

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Eat Your View | Veenkoloniën Netherlands | Felixx

Integrated research on sustainable agriculture that incorporates realistic acknowledgement of the impediments to the success of this process are seldom voiced in more that banal terms such as “market economy” “farmers markets” etc – going beyond green activists  and  urban hippies day dreams proves more than challenging; Her is one response reported by Damian Holmes of World Landscape Architecture 

How can rural dynamics be employed to adequately cope with the global challenges that we are currently facing and how can these challenges once again turn rural areas into a system that works? The Veenkoloniën (Groningen peat district) is a rural area in the North of the Netherlands that is facing a number of major economic, social and ecological challenges. As an agricultural area, the region is part of a global system. Consequently, its challenges are not caused by internal factors, but by the global food system and this system’s impact on the area, i.e. the social, economic and ecological environment that it creates.

The new agricultural model requires a new production system: an intelligent seven-year crop and livestock rotation that integrates temporary nature areas. Processing is divided into a cooperative network of local, regional and national processing hubs: a choice is always made between transport costs and the benefits of scale. This results in development opportunities at all levels of scale and renewed social significance for the food industry. The infrastructure network is adapted to facilitate these new development opportunities and to ensure that the production area can once again be accessed and experienced by both consumers and producers alike.

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Two Views of Woodstock:Cape Town – “Upscaling” vs “Gentrification”

Here are two opposed views of the regeneration of an old area of Cape Town, Woodstock,   it seems inevitable that any upgrading or regeneration effort  runs the risk  being labeled ‘gentrification’ with its negative connotations of poor locals being forced out by profit hungry developers. It seems ironic that in many of these cases the developers are out-of-work young professionals who seeing the opportunity, make the best of their creativity, contacts and by hard work get the thing going in the face of enormous odds. Only once they have made the area acceptably safe and more economically viable, does the area become the target for  developers to enter the market and the price of rents, land etc become a problem as the “poor”  landowning residents decide to cash in and sell their properties.

The   first post by Ravi Naidoo is the positive and development oriented “neo-liberal” view of things, from Dezeen and Mini World Tour

“South Africa has always had an Upscaling Culture”

In the second part of our tour around Cape Town, Design Indaba founder Ravi Naidoo shows us the former industrial suburb of Woodstock, which the city’s design community has recently made its home, and explains the importance of upcycling in South African design."South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"“If you have 36 hours in Cape Town and time is at a premium, you have to head down to Woodstock,” says Naidoo. It is an area of Cape Town three kilometres from the city centre that has undergone an “extreme makeover” in recent years and is now home to an array of arts, craft, fashion and design studios and shops, as well as cafés and restaurants.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

Naidoo takes us to The Old Biscuit Mill, a 19th-century biscuit factory in the heart of Woodstock, which was redeveloped in 2005 by Kristof Basson Architects, and where many of the designers that present their work at theDesign Indaba Expo are now based. It also hosts a weekly food market that draws crowds from across the city every Saturday.

"South Africa has always had an upcycling culture"

The Old Biscuit Mill recently underwent its second phase of redevelopment, converting the old  flour silo into six storeys of mixed-use space, which now houses the Cape Town Creative Academy as well as a new penthouse restaurant called The Pot Luck Club by leading South African chef Luke Dale-Roberts.

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Laura Wenz’s post,  while  more “gentrification” orientated, examines some of the problems and attempts to mitigate the negative effects from Daily Maverick

Woodstock’s urban renewal: Much more at stake than the loss of parking

In South Africa, the phenomenon of gentrification is commonly associated with the resurrection of downtown Johannesburg and the rebirth of Woodstock in Cape Town. Both areas share a common denominator for gentrification: a growing middle class with disposable incomes and a taste for all things designer. And both fail to support government’s claim that it is creating inclusive cities for all, writes LAURA A WENZ.

“When I first moved to New York, it was dingy, disgusting, dirty, ugly, flea-ridden, stinky and altogether terrifying – but then sadly the whole city started to go uphill,” laments Ted Mosby, the naïve and inveterately romantic protagonist of the popular American TV-comedy series  How I met your Mother. His sentimental statement captures the glum irony of urban regeneration: Neighbourhoods with the right mix of historical flair, cosmopolitan ambience and urban decay perpetually attract students, young professionals and artists in search of cheap rent and inspiration.

Armed with the best intentions and an undaunted can-do attitude, these pioneers set out to make their newly adopted working-class neighbourhood an even better one, praising its “gritty charm” and “original character” while they open coffee shops and organic eateries. Only too late do they realise that property developers have been watching them closely and once the word on the potential value of the once hidden gem is out, land prices shoot through the roof, artists exit through the gift shop and long-time residents end up on their stoep, door locked firmly behind them.

woodstock bromwell door

Photo: Bromwell Boutique Mall, with close-up of doorman.

Rising property values are often too readily assumed to benefit local home-owners, while in fact they have put severe strain on old-established residents, who have had to cope with rising municipal rates due to property re-evaluation. According to the Anti-Eviction Campaign, some families have not been able to afford the escalating rates, leading to their eviction and removal to‘Blikkiesdorp’.  This infamous Temporary Relocation Area (TRA) – a not-so-glamorous World Cup legacy – has been repeatedly slammed by human rights groups for its inhumane living conditions.

Though the market effects of higher land value are at first glance supporting the city council’s densification strategy as space needs to be used more efficiently, it simultaneously prohibits the development of affordable housing and rental units. This however is an essential prerequisite for making the inner city more accessible to people in the low-income bracket and cracking open the encrusted patterns of urban inequality.

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Urban Choreography:

I this the future of urban planning – I hope not – I wonder of the little people can be polled as to their likes and dislikes and how would you aggregate these “collective”s views – what room is there for politics?

Originally posted on Things I grab, motley collection :

See on Scoop.itThings I Grab (Here and There): THgsIGrbHT

Josh Dzieza plays the latest version with Stone Librande, its lead designer, and Jeff Speck, the author of ‘Walkable City.’

plerudulier‘s insight:

You’ll notice the difference right away—unlike previous versions of the hit computer game, this one is actually full of tiny citizens. They leave their tiny homes every morning and walk (or drive or take a bus) to power plants or factories, where tiny crates are made and picked up by trucks driven by other tiny people, then finally dropped off at stores where the Lilliputian populace shops.

Given this manic attention to municipal minutiae, it may come as a surprise that the series isn’t universally beloved in the urban-planning community. After all, this is where many of today’s youngest planners first experienced the thrills of zoning and city budgets. (New Yorker writer John Seabrook has written that…

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Trevor Manuel – Minister of Planning: South Africa

From Daily Maverick – an interview with Trevor Manuel Minister of Planning – South Africa – on what the planning commission means and what it intends for working on South Africa’s extremely unequal demographics and poverty.

ryland fisher Trevor Manuel interview.jpg

Interviewing politicians can be difficult, because they hardly ever give a straight answer, and Minister for Planning in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, is a consummate politician. But in a wide-ranging interview, he spoke as openly as possible, among others, about how he has won over sceptics over the years, first as minister of finance and now as planning minister, about his displeasure at ministers whose utterances go against the Constitution, his anger at the policemen who killed a Mozambican man in Daveyton last week, his resignation in support of Thabo Mbeki and how his current job is very different from his previous one as minister of finance. He remained hesitant to speak about his future, however. By RYLAND FISHER.

We interviewed Manuel in his office at Parliament on Friday morning, a few hours after he had hosted a report-back meeting in the Rocklands Civic Centre in Mitchells Plain where he spoke about the need to rekindle the activism that was prevalent in the 1980s.

Below is an edited extract of the interview:

RF: When you were appointed minister in charge of planning in President Zuma’s Cabinet, there were obviously some sceptics who did not quite understand what it is that you had to do. Now that the National Development Plan has taken centre stage in our political life and, indeed, our economy, do you feel vindicated?

TM: I don’t actually set out with that objective. I think that too frequently we start out not being given the benefit of the doubt. What it entails is just working hard to get things right and if, in the process, you disprove the sceptics, that’s okay, but you start out to get things right.

In the last few years of Madiba, in spite of the fact that many people told him he was crazy to appoint me minister of finance, I did not set out to prove the sceptics wrong, but I hoped that through my efforts I would be able to win the trust of Madiba and the organisation that gave me the opportunity to do so. What is important is that one is able to take decisions and learn in the process.

I understand very clearly that if the only thing you want to do in a position of leadership is to please people, the quality of your leadership is going to be severely compromised. If you try and do things that go against the grain of your belief system, then you will be unhappy and feel compromised.

If you want to deal with these issues, you have to ask questions constantly about what your reference points are, about what is your value system. Some people use the term “compass”: so where are you heading and why?

The ability to think past ideological rigidity is also important.

If I take these points and try and use them to answer the question about the National Development Plan, it makes for an interesting read.

The commission [National Planning Commission] itself is an interesting construct. I’ll be bold enough to say that my initial thought was to have the commission structured more along the lines of the Indian Planning Commission which has about half a dozen ministers on it. It is chaired by the prime minister and often the president or the deputy president could chair it and I would do the spade work inside. I lost that battle, and it was not about wanting to be a prime minister. It was about wanting to follow a construct whose relationship to implementation would be understood.

The second thing about the plan and the commission is that its composition actually lives out !ke e: ǀxarra ǁke (Khoisan for “diverse people unite”). It is quite a diverse group of people and that’s a real strength.

When we approached people to participate, on the recommendation of the president, some of them said: “Why are you approaching me? I’m not even an active member of the ANC.” However, everyone accepted. There were some people who felt rejected by the ANC. In putting this together, a lot of these people got a new lease on life and have given the commission a new lease on life. It has been very important for that reason.

The third issue is that, in many ways, when, 13 months into the process, the diagnostic report was released, it was a coming out for the commission. If people thought it was a lapdog, then the release of the diagnostic report – which deals with issues such as the unevenness of the public service, the breakdown of unity, the need to tackle corruption, etc. – spoke volumes about the way so many South Africans feel.

But it also spoke to the fact that the president, in inviting the commission to take a long-term, independent view, was actually not curtailing that. There was no censorship about the views of the commission. He allowed it to happen and has built on the momentum created by the National Planning Commission. It is going to be quite important because it was a commission started on his watch and it has been allowed to generate the unity and momentum. It is something that he wants to see through and that is very positive.

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Going With the Flow

With Climate Change and sea level rise a motivated topic of concern (or yawns- depending who you talk to!)  I found this article on the Netherlands approach to Sea level rise edifying. From the New York TImes via Archinect By 

Dick Sellenraad/Aeroview, the Netherlands..

Overdiepse Polder, an infrastructure project in the southeastern province of Brabant south of Amsterdam, will have eight elevated farms.  More Photos »

OVERDIEPSE POLDER, WASPIK, THE NETHERLANDS — When Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York proposed the other day to spend up to $400 million to buy and raze homes in the floodplains damaged by Hurricane Sandy, I thought of Nol Hooijmaijers.

Some dozen years ago the Dutch government ordered Mr. Hooijmaijers to vacate the farmland that he and his family shared with 16 other farmers so it could be turned into a river spillway for occasional floods. I visited Mr. Hooijmaijers recently. He and his wife, Wil, served coffee in their new farmhouse and showed off the new stall for their cows.

How they and their neighbors responded to that government order, and how in turn the government dealt with their response, is a story that might now interest Mr. Cuomo and other New Yorkers.

It has been to the Netherlands, not surprisingly, that some American officials, planners, engineers, architects and others have been looking lately. New York is not Rotterdam (or Venice or New Orleans, for that matter); it’s not mostly below or barely above sea level. But it’s not adapted to what seems likely to be increasingly frequent extreme storm surges, either, and the Netherlands has successfully held back the sea for centuries and thrived. After the North Sea flooded in 1953, devastating the southwest of this country and killing 1,835 people in a single night, Dutch officials devised an ingenious network of dams, sluices and barriers called the Deltaworks.

Water management here depends on hard science and meticulous study. Americans throw around phrases like once-in-a-century storm. The Dutch, with a knowledge of water, tides and floods honed by painful experience, can calculate to the centimeter — and the Dutch government legislates accordingly — exactly how high or low to position hundreds of dikes along rivers and other waterways to anticipate storms they estimate will occur once every 25 years, or every 1,000 years, or every 10,000.

And now the evidence is leading them to undertake what may seem, at first blush, a counterintuitive approach, a kind of about-face: The Dutch are starting to let the water in. They are contriving to live with nature, rather than fight (what will inevitably be, they have come to realize) a losing battle.

Why? The reality of rising seas and rivers leaves no choice. Sea barriers sufficed half a century ago; but they’re disruptive to the ecology and are built only so high, while the waters keep rising. American officials who now tout sea gates as the one-stop-shopping solution to protect Lower Manhattan should take notice. In lieu of flood control the new philosophy in the Netherlands is controlled flooding.

Governor Cuomo’s plan would turn properties in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island into parks, bird sanctuaries and dunes that could act as buffer zones for inland development. The idea is to give homeowners an incentive (perhaps up to $300,000) to move voluntarily out of areas where, in hindsight, single-family houses shouldn’t have been built in the first place. The Dutch have pursued a more aggressive and complex relocation strategy.

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The Emergence of Container Urbanism

A timely essay by  MITCHELL SCHWARZER in Places  on the history of container architecture and urbanism – In South Africa various uses have been made using the ubiquitous shipping container – emblem of the consumer society to shape something different – however they still cost more the what eh local populations of the South can afford so shack-land is unlikely to give way to container-land – but heir use as Spaza shops etc is common in South African shanty towns

Top: Envelope A+D, Proxy, San Francisco. [Photo by Envelope A+D] Bottom four: Proxy tenants facing Linden Alley. [Photo by Trevor Dykstra] Smitten Ice Cream. [Photo by Christopher Bowns] Ritual Coffee. [Photo by Trevor Dykstra] “Off the Grid” food carts. [Photo by Niall Kennedy]
In San Francisco’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, the traffic on Octavia Boulevard almost smacks into a small park before being routed west onto Fell Street. In 2005, the tree-lined, four-block-long boulevard opened as a replacement for the double-decker Central Freeway, mortally wounded by the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake; the freeway was a remnant of the San Francisco Trafficways Plan (1948, 1951, 1955), a proposal by transportation planners to ram numerous limited-access highways through the dense 49-square-mile city. Although a citizen-led protest — the Freeway Revolt, begun in 1959 — halted most of the offending expressways, the Central Freeway had just blasted its way a mile or so through this section of the city, in the Western Addition neighborhood, leading to the mass demolition of older buildings. [1] But nowadays, instead of gusting above the neighborhood, vehicles inch along the surface, and contend with narrowed lanes, traffic lights and forced turns. And, since 2010, they may spy a curious new development. On two short blocks north of Fell Street, land where the freeway once ran, an architectural counterpart to the boulevard’s recalibration of transportation infrastructure has risen.
Proxy, designed and developed by Douglas Burnham’s firm, Envelope A+D, repurposes about a dozen shipping containers to house a smaller number of outdoor businesses. With openings selectively punched into their sides, canopies sprouting from the furrows and ridges of their corrugated steel surfaces, and ornaments organically growing as handles, latches and locking bars, the eight-by-twenty-foot containers host a clothing boutique, beer garden, espresso café, ice-cream parlor and bicycle rental business, as well as cooking, cleaning and storage facilities and set of restrooms. Facing each other or juxtaposed at right angles, the boxes carve intimate outdoor spaces that appear as handcrafted as the products sold by Proxy’s businesses. Painted battleship gray, they also evoke the warships that once followed the sea-lanes of the Pacific from their harbor in San Francisco. That’s ironic, because the very idea of container urbanism would seem to be counterposed against monuments of any sort, whether military-industrial or architectural. In Burnham’s words, Proxy has aimed at a “volumetric ghosting of what a real building would be.” [2]

Along with the park and its revolving art exhibits (many from the Burning Man Festival), along with the gentrified storefronts and renovated and surrogate Victorians, Proxy seems at first glance guided by the pastiche urbanism associated with postmodernity. More than elsewhere in the city, the area around it feels layered with time. The mix of locals and tourists, the foreign languages wafting across the playground and beer garden, reinforce this cosmopolitan dimension. More to the point, a thick sense of urbanity emerges fromProxy’s staging of activities in liminal zones: amid transport boxes initially manufactured to move goods and now reworked to sell them; astride the intimacy of a residential neighborhood and the circuitry of metropolitan transportation. At Proxy, people swill beer and munch pretzels and pickles atop cracked macadam only steps from an anxious stream of cars and trucks. Akin to the parts of old-world cities rebuilt over pre-modern walls or modern bombing campaigns, Proxy builds atop San Francisco’s former traumas; a row of pollarded fruit trees grows up the blank side walls of an apartment exposed half a century ago by the elevated freeway; the shipping containers themselves both recall the city’s illustrious history as a port and alert us to the innovation that led to the cargo port’s demise.

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MIT launches new research center on advanced urbanism

A great deal of effort is being put into research that could lead to new urbanists – of interest here is the emphasis on the role of projects rather than utopian design ideals and a seeming leaning towards Transdisciplinarity – this involves greater level of involvement with end users – rather than purely Interdisciplinary and multi disciplinary approaches that are the typical state of academia and praxis present:

From Archinect

Interdisciplinary teams will focus on the planning, design, construction and retrofitting of urban environments for the 21st century. —

Already, the world is becoming predominantly urban. However, the dominant form of urban living will be very similar to our older suburban regions in the U.S. This places substantial pressure on American suburban models, the dominant model of urban development copied worldwide, to set a better example of sustainability. This is even more critical as economic development grows robust middle classes in developing countries who expect more from their living environments.

To address the urgent need for better models of urban growth, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning is launching a major new research center focused on the planning, design, construction and retrofitting of urban environments for the 21st century.

Under the leadership of center director Alexander D’Hooghe and research director Alan Berger – professors of architecture and of urban design and landscape architecture, respectively – the Center for Advanced Urbanism will coordinate collaborations among existing efforts in the School and with other MIT groups, as well as undertaking new projects at the Institute and with sponsors in practice.

For the first two years, the center’s research program will focus on the particular challenges of infrastructure. Traditionally, infrastructure design has been based on a single function – a bridge for auto use, for instance, a lake and dam for electricity, a coastal barrier for storm surge protection.  But two new trends will soon alter that model – the increasing intensity of development in our suburban regions, putting capacity pressures on existing infrastructures; and the need for a broader systemic view of infrastructure’s multiple roles.

“We need to continue studying and modeling new scenarios for suburban forms and infrastructures, with special attention to the design performance and programmatic adaptability,” says Berger.

Fundamental to the center’s approach is the notion that research will be most effective when it is focused on specific projects as elements of the larger system, with a constant eye toward how that project can provide extra services beyond its primary function. By limiting intervention to individual projects, rather than trying to rewire entire regional systems all at once, infrastructure investment should, over several growth cycles, result in a reconfigured and durable new urban order.

As part of its commitment to building a new collaborative approach to the challenges of urbanization, CAU will offer subjects to general student populations in all the School’s degree programs and will contribute to a new, one-year integrated studio experience in which students will work on a complex urban problem from the combined perspectives of architecture, ecology, energy, housing, landscape, policy, real estate and technology.

With its distinguished history in urbanism, reaching all the way back to the work of pioneering urbanist Kevin Lynch, the MIT School of Architecture + Planning is well positioned to lead this effort, drawing faculty from both the department of architecture and of urban studies and planning.

The School’s participating labs include City Science, the Civic Data Design Lab, the Housing and Community Lab, Locus-Lab, the Mobility Systems Lab, the New Century Cities Lab, the P-REX Lab, the Platform for Permanent Modernity, the Resilient Cities Housing Initiative, the Sustainable Design Lab and the Urban Risk Lab.