1to1 recognises that a large part of the current and continued unequal spatial development of our cities lies in the manner in which we see, make and run our cities.

Systemic Spatial Inequality


Spatial Inequality refers to the uneven distribution or access given to socially valued resources and opportunities based on location in space or boundaries set by such conditions.

It is considered easy to identify areas that are negatively affected by Spatial Inequality, but due to the systemic and long term nature of the underlying processes that cause this – it is often difficult to clearly identify the root cause that produce spatial unequal urban patterns.

Spatial Inequality is not a causality of development, but a (often biased or prejudiced) result of how cities and regions are planned and governed and where resources and opportunities are allocated.

The most common factors shaping locational and spatial discrimination are recognised to be economic level, race, religion, culture or gender.

…none of us is completely free from struggles over the unjust geographies that we have created and in which we live. Perhaps the most blatant form of “injustice through geography” was South African apartheid and it is no surprise to find that the current political discourse in South Africa talks more of Spatial Justice than most other countries.”

Edward Soja, Spatial Injustice & the Right to the City

In South Africa the legacy of colonial and Apartheid planning have set patterns of spatial development that fundamentally remain in place today, but newer forms of spatial inequality are manifesting post-1994 along lines of gentrification, urban sprawl and housing/land access.

Alexandra Township in context to Sandton, Johannesburg: Unequal Scenes – Johnny Miller

our aim

As socio-technical designers, we are driven by a focus on the role for design in regards to spatial justice in South Africa

We believe that each user/resident of a city has a role to play in shaping the collective spaces that make up our urban centers – and we strive to work with this latent social capital that exists within all of us.

We have developed our organisation to be effective across the various scales of social impact in our cities, but focus on the grass-roots level of engagement,: the neighborhood scale.

We hope to one day live in a South Africa where our cities are, and continue to be, spatially equitable, while all who live have equal spatial opportunities.

Spatial Justice for our cities


Spatial Justice as a concept connects the idea of social justice to urban space.

Spatial Justice focuses the spatial aspects of the places we live, work and play in, to the spatial dimensions of politics that govern. us.

It can be used as a framework for action and a tool for urban development, but most importantly it connects the idea of Social Justice to Space (our neighborhoods, our towns and our cities).

The understanding that inequality/injustice manifests most clearly into space and the efforts to address this unbalance aim to achieve spatial equity by re-distributing/adjusting the causes of the unjustness.

“A just city is a city in which spatial resources and natural amenities will be available and accessible to all.” Marcellos De Sousa Lopez – The Just City Essays

we focus our energy towards spatial justice in our cities by addressing:

non-effective use of government policies

South Africa has some of the most progressive urban policies in the world – yet we struggle to implement them effectively or at scale. There is a cross-sectoral lack of focus on national policy being implemented at a local level.

grass-roots exclusion in development

Those most affected by the effects of spatial ineqaulity are largely excluded from the developmental processes that seek to benefit them – often to the detriment of the project outcome.

stigma of ‘density’ & ‘informality’

There exists a pervasive and dangerous set of stigmas and biases against those that live in spatially marginalized areas – these are often described through the conflated and misused terms of informality, density or under blanketed ideas of poverty.

the systemic legacy of colonial & apartheid planning

South Africa’s current spatial form is largely due to the legacy of over 400+ years of unequal and unbalanced development based on colonial and Apartheid urban logics.

effects of urban sprawl & non-optimal land use

Our current (and global) patterns of urban development (seen in patterns of urban sprawl and land use) are no sustainable and often compound the legacy of the colonial and Apartheid city.

lack of spatial practitioners & training

There is an evident lack of professional and on-professionalized practitioners with the understanding or experience of the challenge at hand in the Built Environment Sector.

Kliptown, Johannesburg: Unequal Scenes – Johnny Miller

Our Guiding Voices

Practice, then, is about making the ordinary special and the special more widely accessible — expanding the boundaries of understanding and possibility with vision and common sense.

It is about building densely interconnected networks, crafting linkages between unlikely partners and organizations, and making plans without the usual preponderance of planning.

It is about getting it right for now and at the same time being tactical and strategic about later. ”

Nabeel Hamdi, Small Change: About the Art of Practice and the Limits of Planning in Cities

Image: 1to1 co-founder, Mohau Melani

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Want to volunteer?

1to1 has a long tradition of supporting those who would like to enter or get involved in this field of work as interns, volunteers or project specific work contracts.

Want to work with us?

1to1 is always open to work with new collaborators and partners across academic, civil, private or governmental sectors.

Grass-roots entities are welcome to contact us to discuss support.