Change the world

Architecture

PORT ELIZABETH, MOVING FORWARD TOGETHER

 

Studio Staff: John Andrews, Dr. Magda Minguzzi

Assistant: Mamohau Khemi

This studio will attempt to engage the whole city – which today means world, region and urban centres as well as districts, neighborhoods and streets. It is not about urban design as this is ordinarily defined – as a remediation of streetscapes and frontages and public streets and squares.What we will do instead is describe the city in a systematic way, as a product of urbanization, andthen research and design the processes, simultaneities and interdependencies of the whole in order to produce results at the levels of the parts and vice versa.

Cities can be described in multiple ways. It is in fact necessary to describe them in multiple ways if we wish to engage with some of the oppositions that characterize urban fabric and urban life. We want to begin with a method in which oppositions reflected in the differences between central business districts, local centres and neighborhood streets, can be accounted for. But how to engage with oppositions in a systematic, clear and unified way; in a way we can deal with in a process of design? And how can we engage with these oppositions in an open and forward-looking way; in a way we can take what exists in the present and direct it to grow to a desired outcome in the future? And with enough openness and resilience that it can accommodate change along the way?

The method presented starts with the notion of urbanization. Urbanization is a layered process of formation of urban communities, polities, economies and spaces. Urbanization is not a single process. But it is not massively multiple either. It proceeds on a number of fronts simultaneously. A city and urban region is being urbanized at the same time sub-centres are being urbanized and neighborhoods and streets are being urbanized. These different urbanizations are linked in time and are dependent on each other so that we cannot think of one of these processes without considering the others.

We will use this conceptual and process understanding to build a clear model of the city and urban region of Port Elizabeth. We will then use this model to guide us in understanding an urban future that is equitable and sustainable. This understanding will be presented as a vision for the future of Port Elizabeth, and model and vision will then guide detailed projects which strategically contribute towards moving Port Elizabeth forward to the future.

The workshop is intended to be an education as well as a project. Discussions, talks and seminars will be interspersed with studio work and the whole project, research, vision and strategic projects will be a studio and team effort (with doses of individual work of course) involving staff and students. Besides a vision for PE, the main thing we want to leave students with a much clearer understanding of what cities are, and what their city is, and of the potentials available for creating just and sustainable urban futures through an extended research and design process.

Port Elizabeth, moving forward together

This is a project carried out by first, second and third year architecture students of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. It is a project of learning about the Port Elizabeth metropolitan area in its actuality, but also in its potentiality, and how actuality and potentiality can be built towards an equitable and sustainable future.

The project has introduced students to some elements of urban practice and thinking including research, strategy, and future visioning. It has focussed particularly on researching the everyday lives of the different people of Port Elizabeth, and strategising and visioning an urban future in terms of diversity, guided by normative values like social equity, integration and sustainability.

Which Port Elizabeth?

We have to ask first what the object of this project is. Which Port Elizabeth is the object of our concern? Cities are conceived and theorised in many different ways and we have thought in this project about cities as economic machines, as mobility machines, and as technologies for modern lives in every era.

These ideas (of what cities essentially are) are important ones, but they also somewhat miss the point, because when urban professionals like planners and designers aim for the future it is not these essentialist ideas but more normative descriptors that they use to describe their visions. The instruments and methods they use become organised and understood in relation to these values.

The Port Elizabeth we deal with technically is a city of mobile people, but the city we want to aim at is a public and democratic city. We are interested in the equity, integration and sustainability of Port Elizabeth as a ‘community’ of diverse and different peoples, the ways we can bring this community of differences together in public space, and the ways this diversity can add value to the city.

Of course economic and industrial planning, for jobs and prosperity, are important and are a vital part of city visioning, but ‘prosperous’ and ‘economically viable’ are not the only descriptors that influence our strategising and visioning, and it is doubtful that aims like ‘equity’ and ‘integration’ can be achieved without specifically targeting these.

The Project

Port Elizabeth is a community of very different lives. But it is also a divided city, and as such it fails to fulfil its potentials and fully support the potentials of its people.

Port Elizabeth doesn’t just have problems related to difference and division; it also has assets and potentials in the capacities and energies of its diverse people and these are resources it can mobilise in the solving of problems and shaping the future. Inward investment and job creation is of course crucial to the development of these assets, but concern with investment has to be matched with concern for how that investment builds on and reinforces local assets and potentials and takes the whole diverse urban population forward in broad-based, shared projects of development.

Developing a broad participatory base to development initiatives is part of the issue; another is identifying interesting and challenging ways of tackling problems of segregation and fragmentation, and using these to provoke thinking and debate about the forms development should take. This studio has chosen to investigate the mobility patterns of metropolitan Port Elizabeth and to ask what contribution an attention to and knowledge about mobility patterns will make to decisions about the sorts of development projects Port Elizabeth needs.

We hope our results will contribute to an on-going debate about development in Port Elizabeth and the directions and forms development should take.

To read the full article written by dr. Stephan Read, click here. Find the full presentation here.

 

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Project Information