October 2017 Issue:

S.A: The Urban Praxis

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In recognition of his contribution to the practice of urban design, Erky Wood presented the third Roelof S. Uytenbogaardt UDISA Memorial Lecture at the Johannesburg Planetarium to more than 200 industry specialists, colleagues and students.

The lecture, named Urban Praxis: Making sense of nonsense for the post-apartheid city, is particularly apt for a society where despite being over 20 years on into democracy, the spatial legacy of apartheid and the exclusion of many from the urban system is still with us.

Wood covered many of the issues Uytenbogaardt himself raised in taking on the inequities of apartheid city-building, assessing why change has been so limited and reflecting on and pointing to the prospects for urban success.

In Wood’s view, there is a profound need to rethink and restructure our cities in Africa to make them sustainable. He says one must never forget that cities generate, as Jane Jacobs wrote, the wealth of nations. He points to Gauteng, by way of illustration.  It’s population of 12,5 million is largely urbanised which is cause for optimism. The problem, however, is it’s incredibly sprawled. Even though this population, on the face of it, takes up just 27% of the province’s area, the actual extent is vast and, in urban terms, extremely baggy, inefficient and unsustainable.

In trying to meet the challenge of a MegaCity growing to around 30 million people over the next 40 years or so, the approach must be how not to increase this footprint but rather to consolidate that footprint to avoid more people becoming disempowered and disenfranchised from the very city which is meant to support them.



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