by Amira Osman

Presented at the STAND, FADA, UJ seminar titled Decolonising architectural education and spatial justice

On 9th September 2016

The talk started by a critique of the current condition of architectural education and trying to unpack what a decolonised architecture pedagogy means. This was presented in terms of understanding a university in context, as well as the relationship between the university, the city and decolonisation. The topics of spatial justice, politics of space and ethics in the built environment are described in relation to property rights, access to opportunity and land.

COMPETITION FOR SPACEstand-09092016-ppp_part1

The competition for space in cities between big capital and communities. I will refer to the Sudanese situation of state-sanctioned mega development and the Jeppestown experience and how this leads to displacement of people and disruptions of livelihoods. This happens because of competition between “Big capital & communities”, because of state-sanctioned mega development and the resulting displacement of people and disruptions of livelihoods.

WHAT WE TEACH and HOW WE PRACTICE:  stand-09092016-ppp_part2 ; stand-09092016-ppp_part2-1 ; stand-09092016-ppp_part3 ;

The relevance of what we teach and how it does NOT support better access to city space, opportunity and small-scale livelihood initiatives. I explain how built form and space can negatively disrupt and how architects, their professional and educational institutes are complicit ito a focus on individuality, image, representation (outdated and irrelevant approaches) rather than a focus on service and skill development and participatory approaches.

GENERATING OUR OWN THEORY BASE and CONCLUSIONS stand-09092016-ppp_part4 ; 

  1. an assumption that the poor and the disenfranchised are not needing professional service but should rather receive small, insignificant acupunctural interventions which can do nothing to address the scale of the inherited, carefully engineered and massive problem of the Apartheid city – this is not to dismiss the catalytic effects of smaller interventions but to highlight the need for a balance between the various levels of decision-making in the built environment
  2. this ensures that city structures remain untransformed, opportunity remains inaccessible to many and capital remains in the hands of a few
  3. a sense of superiority and a dismissiveness towards service learning, practical design, technology skills, applied design and contextual responses – favouring abstract representation and communicative mechanisms that are deliberately exclusionary rather than inclusionary
  4. some reasons for this situation might be “white guilt” and “religious fervour” when speaking about concepts such as participation – this means we are disadvantaging students by not equipping for practice and disadvantaging communities but not providing good professional service