UJ Vertical Studio 2013 – Downtown Johannesburg Spatial Interrogation: Jo’burg Child Welfare

Jhono Bennett 1to1 Blog

In the early part of 2013 1to1 – Agency of Engagement‘s Jhono Bennett was commissioned by the University of Johannesburg’s Architecture Department to manage and facilitate their Vertical Studio Week held in Johannesburg’s inner city and the FADA Building during February 4th – 8th 2013.

Working within a facilitated partnership between Dr. Barbara HoltmannEmma Holtmann and Alexander Opper, as well as employing he precedented work of the Vertical Studiot 2012 by Eric Wright the week long programme was intended to facilitate the introduction and further development of Architectural thinking, doing and problem solving in Johannesburg’s dynamic inner city spaces – while bringing together the students from the various years. This facilitation the exposed the students to the larger strategies of the stakeholders involved in this area.

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The two focus areas for the project

Brief

Students were asked to take part in the week long programme planned and engage in a series of workshops, exercises and events to develop their own understanding of the contextual nature this vibrant urban area in order to propose their own solutions to the issues they come across, and present these ideas to the stakeholders at week’s end.

Background

In a process facilitated by Dr. Barbara Holtmann Joburg Child Welfare and Joburg Region F have brought together government, business and NGOs in the inner city. This collaboration is aimed at bringing about a systemic transformation of the neighbourhood surrounding and including the Old Drill Hall, which is the site of Joburg Child Welfare’s Thembalethu project.

The inner city is an unsafe environment for children, upon whom poor regulation and lack of access to services impact in a range of ways. The environment is unfriendly to interventions of a socially transformative nature and this further disadvantages children living in the neighbourhood.

By focusing on “what-it-looks-like-when-it’s-fixed” and co-creating a shared vision for the future of the inner city based on integrated approaches and partnerships, the process promotes change in three primary and inter-connected areas: health and wellness, access and mobility in the city and in supporting the city’s “Clean Sweep” initiative aimed at beautifying and cleaning the city.

This process has helped stakeholders identify areas of overlap and shared objectives. Based on this analysis, each area of focus will be supported by a team who will work collectively as a forum. In this way a wide and inclusive range of participants can, through collaboration and visionary thinking, impact the systemic degradation that characterizes the inner city and reduce the vulnerability of its children.

Day 1:

The week began with the FADA Auditorium introduction, followed by group division and the first bus trips to the site. On site we were met by JMPD and the Best Life project co-ordinators.

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