The work of the relatively new NRF SARChI Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive change in the Built Environment) has seen some progress during 2021 and has been developed and promoted through a new entity called: PLATFORM 100 established in partnership with Architect Mokena Makeka of DALBERG. Platform100 has a youtube channel: https://lnkd.in/dtE24gpD. The website is still under construction.
The Chair released an episode of her podcast African Cities: Envisioning an alternative future titled Space, race and [spatial] transformation – having the courage to address complex topics which may be found here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1298831/8303545?fbclid=IwAR00Uu67MqXmn_NoPiCNz_8Vf_Vtz-_1qyesWc_KRgTkbM3vGwe5d8t3ZT0 – In this second podcast of the African cities series the SARChI Chair aims to tie together complex themes that are hard to address yet deeply related, and integral, to any conversation on spatial transformation. An attempt is made to visualise through words an image of what a transformed urban environment will “look like”. Fragments of recent engagements have been woven together making this a very timous and needed contribution at this particular time. The conversation continues in the next edition when the, again complex, topic of healing from the trauma of divisive spatial geographies is tackled, and how COVID-19 made it all so much more evident.
Episode 3 of the podcast presented Africans in the diaspora: visions for the home country and lessons from the host country. The Chair reflected on her multiple affiliations and how a revolution and political transformation transformed us. The complex topics of protest, public space, identity, belonging, virtual and real space are addressed. The podcast is based on invited talks, radio and TV interviews and an article published in The Conversation in 2019 (https://theconversation.com/sudan-the-symbolic-significance-of-the-space-protesters-made-their-own-115864; http://amiraosman.co.za/2019/07/17/the-december-2018-revolution-and-sudanese-professionals-in-the-diaspora-reflections-from-a-reluctant-activist/). The Sudan, in general neglected in the media, was suddenly in the spotlight. Some have argued that the Sudan is not African enough for Africans and not Arab enough for the Arabs – a condition that has led to a level of marginalisation. Lessons from both the host and home countries (Sudan and South Africa) are introduced. Visions for Khartoum that have emerged in social media are critiqued and a manifesto for the future plans for the city is presented. Warwick Junction, in Durban South Africa, which is host to an estimated 6000 informal traders, is presented as another case where the tension between peoples’ daily activities in city spaces and officialdom play out. This episode is found here: https://www.buzzsprout.com/1298831/8482759-africans-in-the-diaspora-visions-for-the-home-country-and-lessons-from-the-host-country
In March 2021 The South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) hosted the first of the ‘many voices’ transformation webinars. The recording is available here: https://saia.org.za/…/SAIA_many_voices_RACE… The Chair presented the session and the opening speech which is documented here: http://amiraosman.co.za/2021/03/16/saia-transformation-webinars-2021-some-reflections/
The Chair collaborated with and sponsored an event titled In Plain Sight: A dialogue with Ms Linda Mvusi + Luyanda Mpahlwa which was curated by key partner Dr Emmanuel Nkambule. The architect and actress Linda Mvusi returned to South Africa in 1992 to set up her practice after years of being in exile. In this lecture, she will share her design heritage, from her late father, mother, and two brothers, as well as her lived experience, studies and practice work in different countries and continents. This is one in a series of activities that will be launched in partnership as part of the In Plain Sight initiative.
In May 2021, the Chair presented a talk titled: “Healing from the trauma of divisive spatial geographies. Resilience and anti-fragility at a global, national and personal level.” This talk is part of a series hosted by the South African Cities Network (SACN); the Healing Fields sessions are a space to face our collective scars and have connected conversations that work towards acknowledging the traumas imposed on people and places. As an initiative of the Built Environment Integration Task Team (BEITT), a team of South African city practitioners working together to understand various spatial transformation issues in our cities. The session may be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lTEjImYDFU
Also in May 2021, the Chair partnered with Dr Jako Nice from the CSIR in launching the Healthy Buildings in Healthy Cities Lab in an event that gained interest nationally and internationally. Healthy Buildings, Healthy Cities is a collaboration between the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the SARChI Chair in Spatial Transformation (Positive Change in the Built Environment),Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and the launch event was hosted by the Pretoria Institute for ArchitectureThe impact of buildings on human health is profound, and has a direct cost impact on performance and output for its users. The symposium explored the integration of health-related concepts into the traditional architectural tertiary education, building landscape and city making. An integration that is core to changing the paradigm and skill the current and next generation of architects will require. The speakers were Dr Gwynne Mhuireach (USA), Prof. Peter Russell (Canada), Mr Philip Astley (UK) and Prof. Magda Mostafa (Egypt).
After the riots that shock South Africa in July 2021, the SARChI Chair wrote and opinion piece for the Mail and Guardian arguing that it is time to heal after the devastation… but we cannot go back to what was: https://mg.co.za/…/2021-07-17-crisis-is-an-opportunity…/ The Chair argues that as South Africa is in crisis, the spatial realities of our cities need to take a centre stage in our conversations now more than ever. Acknowledging that Apartheid still exerts an insidious influence on what we are experiencing today; we are living within the constraints of what the architects of apartheid created for us, the Chair provides some practical solutions in the hope that it will influence practitioners and policy makers.
In the beginning of the year, the Chair in collaboration with AOSIS publishers produced the book “Cities, Space and Power”, volume 1 in the book series: The Built Environment in Emerging Economies. (https://lnkd.in/dtE24gpD). The book launch was hosted at the annual We are SACAP stakeholder convention, in August 2021, and was moderated by the SARChI Chair and BEinEE book series editor and Mr Gareth Wall, Local Government Policy and Research, UK. The panelists included authors: Prof Ricardo Sanín-Restrepo (Professor, Law School, Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Colombia), Mr Tariq Toffa (Director & Architect, Educator and Researcher, RE: think/design) and Prof Denise Morado Nascimento (Professor & Coordinator, PRAXIS, School of
Architecture, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte, Brazil). Additional information on the book may be found here: https://aosis.academy/course/view.php?id=144
Commentary was provided by Prof Christina Schade, Visiting professor at Residency in Architecture and Urban Planning and Engineering, Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. Prof Nnamdi Elleh, Head of School, Wits University – School of Architecture and Planning for closed the session. The book can be downloaded freely from AOSIS here: https://lnkd.in/dmQMbutb.
Also at the SACAP convention, the Chair sponsored and hosted a session Shaping our #UrbanEnvironments – #Architecture in Service of Liveable and Loveable Cities. The panel participants were Vinesh Chintaram (African Union of Architects), Kay-Lee Cupido (private practice), Ciaran Mackel (Belfast), Ntsindiso Charles Nduku (SACAP) and Cheryl Walters (City of Cape Town). The panel explored the questions: • How can the architectural profession achieve human(e) settlements that are more equitable, beautiful and functional? • What influence can the architectural profession have on strategic high-level decision-making to impact spatial transformation? • How can the architectural profession contribute to the creation of a more equitable society? In another event, the Chair was also part of an invited panel on BELONGG xSDG: Panel on Making Global Cities and Urban Development Inclusive in August 2021 exploring the concept of identity-led discrimination in cities.
The Chair is continuing with an NRF Community Engagement Project in Bertrams, Johannesburg. The Bertrams Community Engagement Project (CEP) is funded by the National Research foundation (NRF). 2021 is the last year of funding in the three year project. The organizations who are involved in the partnership are CARINBE, University of Johannesburg, 1to1 Agency of Engagement (1to1) and Inner-City Resource Centre (ICRC). The latest news may be found here: http://h-ue.co.za/2021/07/20/community-introductory-session/
The Chair has embarked on a project titled A City is [NOT] a Tree: The Urban Ecologies of Divided Cities in partnership with IEREK in Cairo/Egypt. An MOU was signed between IEREK and TUT. THE CITY IS [NOT] A TREE: THE URBAN ECOLOGIES OF DIVIDED CITIES is an international collaboration, with associates principally from Europe and Africa, and open to collaboration with contributors from other parts of the world. We are interested in analyses, remedies and healing in divided cities and societies. Although these often relate to specificities of history, context, place and population, they nonetheless speak to a universal condition, with many commonalities in both cause and effect. Further information may be found on this event here: https://www.ierek.com/events/uedc#introduction
I gave a keynote to the AFRICAN PLANNING INSTITUTE (API) & THE SUDANESE URBAN & REGIONAL PLANNING ASSOCIATION (SURPA) at an event titled DESIGNING AND PLANNING THE INTERFACE BETWEEN PRIVATE AND PUBLIC SPACE on the 10th August 2021. The talk was titled The African city re-imagined through the innovative interface between public and private space.
In the belief that spatial transformation may only be achieved by policy and institutional transformation, the Chair has accepted a nomination to the position of Vice President of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA). The Chair is also serving on the Gauteng Institute for Architects (GIfA) Awards jury 2021.
The Chair is building up an ecosystem of partners, students and bodies that will help promote the concept of Spatial Transformation over the next few years. With 4 research/admin assistants, 12 master’s students and 8 doctoral students and one post-doctoral fellow that is about to join the team, this ecosystem seems to be well on the way to being established.