Posts tagged with "South Africa":

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There will be no South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale this year

The Venice Architecture Biennale has been trying for the past four years to bring more countries into the biannual event, particularly emerging nations and countries from the Global South. Therefore, it is sad to report that South Africa has pulled out of "Freespace," the 2018 biennale. The official reason for the African country's lack of participation is apparently that none of the submitted proposals were good enough to represent the country. The South African City Press quotes Zimasa Velaphi, spokesperson for the department of arts and culture, who says: “The tender will be cancelled in the government tender bulletin and press [because] the tenders received and evaluated did not adhere to all the policy requirements and a decision was taken not to take part.” But we have reached out to several South African architects (who do not want to be quoted) who seem to agree that since their government has a twenty-year lease to a space in the Torre di Porta Nuova inside the Arsenale and spent 5 million rand (about $400,000–which the government claims will be re-allocated to the 2019 art biennale) to stage the exhibit this will be lost. One architect told A/N that “there have always been problems around South Africa’s participation at Venice–both the Architecture and Art Biennales–and in the past a cloud of corruption has hung over the selection process. Even had it gone forward, there would have been some measure of controversy anyway.” Furthermore, City Press reported “that just days before the announcement of the official representative, four bidders received letters requesting an extension of their tenders until the end of January.” But when the deadline came and went, they “received no further notice, despite contacting the department for clarity." City Press also reported, “Two sources in the department say the proposals were evaluated and the preferred bidder sent to the director-general Vusi Mkhize," and “they believe the strongest bidder was Grahamstown Power Station, submitted by a team that included the National Arts Festival  who staged the South African art pavilion in Venice before and would provide infrastructure for content from acclaimed young Cape Town architect Ilze Wolff." Another South African architect (one of its most respected) said, “The department is a… f**k up and architecture does not even figure on their agenda. This is very sad and we are still negotiating our way through the past–forget about the present and the future–and a strong move to 'de-colonize 'arts and culture is afoot." What this means precisely no one really knows. He went on, “I think that architecture in terms of the current government is viewed as a neo-colonial plot by settlers to hold cultural authority.  What a decolonized architecture would be or look like is problematic. It will be a long and slow process to find a way to express South African architectural identity in Black African terms.” Whatever the reason, for the South African pavilion, this should be an occasion for the country to rethink their participation process and look forward more thoughtfully to 2020.
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Striking drone footage over Cape Town reveals its divided landscape

Aerial photography, by nature, usually reveals patterns that are hard to comprehend as a pedestrian. Large-scale features such as infrastructure, landscape, and human geography can be put into perspective and thanks to Google Maps and other online satellite mapping services, this is information is all readily available at our fingertips.

However, as one photographer has pointed out, much still goes unnoticed. A resident of Cape Town, South Africa since 2012, Johnny Miller has captured the city’s housing landscape and highlighted a problem that's still plaguing post-Apartheid South Africa. As his project title Unequal Scenes suggests, Miller’s images portray the scale and proximity of inequality still present in Cape Town.

"There's a very uniquely South African form of spatial segregation that was developed during the apartheid," said Miller in an interview with The Architect's Newspaper (AN), adding how city planning and infrastructure carved Cape Town's social and racial demographics. "So, for example, roads, rivers, train tracks: the apartheid government did very well at separating people through architecture," he continued. "You see just in the way that the city is designed, it’s going be pretty difficult to redistribute wealth and facilitate the free movement of people."

Miller said he likes how his detailed images facilitate long-term viewing. The physical structure of communities becomes visible, allowing the disparity to be instantly apparent. The homes of the wealthy are arranged in a clearly structured and planned fashion. The "townships" of the poorer, black community however, show roads—if they can be called that—meandering in every which way. As a result, keeping track of dwellings, keeping them on the electric grid and part of the plumbing system, is difficult though most visibly, however, is perhaps the change in color from one side to the other. For instance, one township is adjacent to a golf course: a wealth of greenery covers the wealthier area while the township shows only shack rooftops and dusty dirt-tracks.

Manenberg Phola Park

With the rise of the Nelson Mandela, the apartheid government lost power in 1994. More than twenty years on, Miller explains that change hasn't been easy. There's been a failure in communication between the government and its people, leading to mistrust in state power. "There’s a lot of inequality, disenfranchised people who are really angry," said Miller. But he's is hopeful his project will finally spark a constructive dialogue between the authorities and the population. “I’m trying to promote a peaceful dialogue where people can share their opinions and become aware…. I think awareness is the only tool to defeat the fear that I see as really the root problem,” he added.

Miller hopes the legacy of his project will be the government's response to the questions that arise from his photography. Already, government officials have responded to his work, remarking on their awareness of the issue and stating that they are working on the problem. "What gets me excited about this project... you start to hear those answers, which is really what people want to hear," Miller implored.

Merely photographing the from above, though, isn't Miller's only ambition. He estimates that very few individuals within these poorer communities have even heard about his work. Despite his doing the rounds in South Africa’s printed media, mobile-media remains the dominant form of communication for many in townships. Cellular data tariffs can be pricey. Miller subsequently intends to display his work to residents within the photographed townships, providing what he thinks is an unseen perspective on where they live. “I think it would be really fascinating to show the person on the rich side and the poor side, just see what they have to say.”

Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course 1

In light of the responses Miller’s work has drawn, especially in comments on his Facebook page, it seems that his photography illuminates what appears to be an inconvenient truth for many. “In my opinion, I think it’s a lot of fear that drives these negative comments. Fear of the other, not understanding the person on the other side of the fence."

“Perhaps it takes flying above people, two to three hundred meters, to take away that humanity and reduce humans to mass clearings, or agglomerations, for people to pay attention," he continued, noting how some may have become desensitized to the traditional imagery of poverty: the African child with a bloated stomach looking into the camera. Indeed, "that face" can come from anywhere in the Third World, whereas Miller's drone images illustrate that poverty literally is on their doorstep, something which is arguably more personal.

What is apparent from Miller's work is that the drone provides a new perspective that, in Miller's words, “people really respond to. Seeing something they thought they knew in a different way" is evidently something that resonates—with the wealthier side for now, at least. If you want to follow Johnny Miller's project, you can do so through his Twitter feed, here. You can also find more videos here.

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Munich Residents Demand Affordable Housing Replace Parking Spaces

With major cities running short on affordable housing, local residents have adopted unique measures to air their grievances. In New York, the Brooklyn Anti-Gentrification Network (BAN) held a sign outside a real estate summit in Brooklyn last year, asking car-driving attendees to honk if the rent was "too high." Earlier this year, students at the University of Cape Town in South Africa erected an iron shack on campus to decry the lack of housing available to poor students around the city. For people living in Munich, the solution was simple but proactive. Leerstand089, a citizen group in the city, listed all vacant parking spaces to shame the authorities into building more affordable housing for residents. The plan worked, with a 120-unit apartment complex now slated to replace a parking lot once used at the 1972 Munich Olympics. The area is surrounded by large gardens with trees, a modest soccer field, and a swimming pool. To prevent the rent prices from rising, the apartments will be economically built to keep them within Germany's rent stabilization threshold. Leerstand089, which stands for vacancy and Munich's area code, has notched up several other successes with a number of buildings being earmarked as housing sites. The most recent is a 5,700-square-foot building now designated as a public housing cooperative that will contain 11 rental apartments. The group's basic action plan encourages everyday citizens to call out neglected buildings. If the building is being left unattended, they will report it to the city so it can be put to better use.
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Grains to Galleries: Heatherwick design converts South African silos into a cathedral for art

A monolithic cluster of concrete silos on the Cape Town waterfront is the subject of a dramatic surgical intervention. The industrial relic will be transformed by Thomas Heatherwick into an art museum planned for the city's V&A Waterfront. The project entails the conversion of the grain silo complex into a new space to house and display the Jochen Zeitz Collection, an assortment of art that will act as the foundation for Zeitz MOCAA a non-profit institution dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. Rather than attempt to grapple with the unwieldy nature of the extant structure, Heatherwick elected to embrace its"tubiness." The cluster of cylindrical spaces will remain largely intact while a towering glass-roofed museum atrium is carved out from its interior, resulting in a curvaceous irregular honeycomb form denoting an egg-shaped void. Surrounding bins will be filled by smaller galleries or re-purposed as elevator shafts and spiral stairways. Paint will be stripped from the exterior of the silos to expose the structure's original concrete. Other alterations to the building are relatively minor. A restaurant and sculpture garden will be placed atop the roof. Curved glazed panels will be inserted into some of the more rectilinear portions of the exterior. These subtly bulging additions are meant cast Zeitz MOCAA as a "glowing lantern or beacon for the harbor" by night. Heatherwick Studio will collaborate with South African firms Van Der Merwe Miszewski, Rick Brown Associates, and Jacobs Parker Architects to realize the museum. The decision to preserve much of the silo complex may go a ways towards tempering local concerns regarding the direction and scale of the development of the waterfront. The plans for the museum were revealed at Design Indaba, an annual design expo held in Cape Town. Heatherwick will also be contributing a large fountain to Manhattan's in-the-works Hudson Yards development.