May 2018

LEGO House and Bicycle Snake Honored in 2018 Danish Design Awards

© Kim Christensen / DISSING + WEITLING Architecture © Kim Christensen / DISSING + WEITLING Architecture

Bjarke Ingels Group’s LEGO House and DISSING + WEITLING’s Bicycle Snake have been recognized by the 2018 Danish Design Awards, an initiative which “highlights the impact and value of design, celebrates companies and designers across the country and showcases the difference their solutions make to industry, everyday life, and society at large.”

The LEGO House was victorious in the “Feel Good” category, while the Bicycle Snake was awarded the “Icon Award.”

Policymakers have a lot to learn from slum dwellers: an Accra case study

More and more people are being drawn into slums in Ghana's capital city, Accra. Shutterstock

A significant portion of people who migrate from rural to urban areas across Africa end up trapped in slums, where living conditions are characterised by overcrowding, poor housing, limited access to water and sanitation, and insecure tenure. Many of these informal settlements are largely treated as a nuisance by authorities. This condemns millions of people into helpless poverty.

But not all informal settlements are helpless. Many host remarkable community driven initiatives to make the environment liveable. A collection of initiatives like this in different areas has shaped up into a movement generally tagged self-organisation. The concept refers to a collective, bottom-up activity by residents who use social capital to address common challenges where they live.

We have been doing research in informal settlements in Ghana’s capital Accra over the past four years. What we’ve found are pockets of bottom-up residents’ initiatives scattered across the city’s many informal spaces.

Our study zoomed into an informal settlement called the Abese Old quarter of La Dadekotopon District. The study looked at how self-organisation in the area is shaping up. We also explored how the organisation could be engaged by authorities.

South Africa's Cape Rockjumper numbers are falling and we're not sure why

Male Rockjumper in the Swartberg mountains. Krista Oswald

The Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus) is a bird found only high in the mountains of south-western South Africa - and its days may be numbered.

While initial population estimates were around 90 000 individuals this has recently changed to between 30 000 and 60 000. It’s listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

One reason may be that the bird’s preferred habitat, mountain fynbos, is dwindling as a result of a warming climate. Future climate scenarios say the Cape Rockjumper’s habitat may decrease by 62% by 2085.

But our ongoing research suggests the reasons for the decline might be more complex. Understanding this properly could be important for other species internationally too. It may be possible to slow or stop population declines.

Cape Rockjumpers live in small groups of two to five individuals defending large territories (up to 20 hectares), with only the dominant pair breeding. Both male and female in the dominant pair share parental duties.

Efficient, sustainable and effective facilities management

Efficient, sustainable and effective facilities managementA well-maintained facility is imperative for any business. Poor working conditions lead to a decline in the health and motivation of staff members, which, in turn, leads to a decline in productivity and profitability.
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How South Africa is tightening its tobacco rules

South Africa was a leader in tobacco control but has not updated its policies adequately. Shutterstock

South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has published a new tobacco control bill which, if passed into law, will tighten the grip on how cigarettes and other tobacco products are sold, marketed and regulated in the country. Health and Medicine Editor Candice Bailey asked Catherine Egbe about what it means for tobacco control.

What’s significant about South Africa’s pending tobacco control legislation?

There are five key areas of tobacco control that the new bill seeks to address:

  • a smoke-free policy,

  • plain or standardised cigarette packaging,

  • regulating e-cigarettes,

  • points of sale marketing, and

  • removing cigarette vending machines.

Some are addressed in South Africa’s current tobacco control law. But the country still doesn’t fully comply with the standards set by the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. South Africa signed the convention in 2005.

Smoke-free public places is one example. The current law bans smoking in public places but allows for designated smoking areas in places like bars, taverns and restaurants provided that they do not take up more than 25% of the venue.

The WHO’s convention calls for 100% smoke-free public places to protect non-smokers fully.

From Romantic Ruins to the Ultra-Real: A History of the Architectural Render

Throughout history, architects have used sketches and paintings to display to their clients the potential outcomes of the projects rattling around their minds. Since Brunelleschi’s adoption of drawn perspective in 1415, architectural visualizations have painted hyper-realistic imaginings of an ideal, where the walls are always clean, the light always shines in the most perfect way, and the inhabitants are always happy.

With technological advances in 3D modeling and digital rendering, this ability to sell an idea through a snapshot of the perfect architectural experience has become almost unrestricted. Many have criticized the dangers of unrealistic renderings that exceed reality and how they can create the illusion of a perfect project when, in fact, it is far from being resolved. However, this is only the natural next step in a history of fantastical representations, where the render becomes a piece of art itself. 

Below is a brief history of the interesting ways architects have chosen to depict their projectsfrom imagined time travel to the diagrammatic.

UCLG carries forward the monitoring on SDG localization!

Mandala is centred on the experience of the Brazilian Association of Municipalities (CNM), who, together with United Nations Development Program (UNDP), developed the tool based on the radar performance measurement of the International Foundation for the Development of Reliable Governments (FIDEGOC) from Mexico.  

The Mandala methodology is useful for monitoring SDGs implementation at the local level, and is compared with the respective effort of the German Association in the publication.

UCLG Learning already had the opportunity to present the tool to interested stakeholders as part of the localizing strategy at the International Sustainability Conference of the Service Agency – Comunities in One World (SKEW) from the 17th to the 18th of May in Konstanz (Germany). We believe that our new publication will help our network to make the efforts and achievements of local and regional governments in the localization process more visible!

Spotlight: Frei Otto

Munich Olympic Stadium. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn Munich Olympic Stadium. Image © Atelier Frei Otto Warmbronn

German architect and structural engineer Frei Otto (31 May 1925 – 9 March 2015) was well known for his pioneering innovations in lightweight and tensile structures. Shortly before his death in 2015 he was awarded the Pritzker Prize and prior to that he was awarded the RIBA Royal Gold Medal in 2006. Much of his research in lightweight structures is as relevant today as when he first proposed them over 60 years ago, and his work continues to inform architects and engineers to this day.

Merck Innovation Center / Architect HENN

© HG Esch, Hennef © HG Esch, Hennef
  • Architects: Architect HENN
  • Location: Darmstadt, Germany
  • Lead Architects: Gunter Henn, Martin Henn, Georg Pichler, Klaus Ransmayr, Wolfgang Wrba
  • Team: Lars Teichmann, Axel Mierisch, Susanne Paulisch, Mira Schröpfer
  • Project Year: 2018
  • Photographs: HG Esch, Hennef
© HG Esch, Hennef © HG Esch, Hennef

Text description provided by the architects. The site of the science and technology company Merck in Darmstadt (Germany) is progressively remodelled from a production works into a technology and science campus. The heart of this transformation is the Innovation Center with a new world of work.

Vrygrond: Mayor’s new proposal for housing

Land close to landfill could be used if tests show it is safe

By Thembela Ntongana

30 May 2018

Photo of informal settlement
Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille met the Vrygrond Development Forum following land occupations and protests in the area. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

The City of Cape Town is to consider using new land in the Vrygrond area for housing, following discussions with the Vrygrond Development Forum after protests in the area.

The forum met Mayor Patricia de Lille on Tuesday to discuss possible solutions to concerns raised by members of the community following violent protests that have taken place in the area where the ward councillor’s car was also burnt.

This was the fourth meeting between the groups, attended by other councillors and City of Cape Town officials, according to the Mayor’s spokesperson Xolani Koyana. Koyana said the City had made previous proposals to the leadership forum which they have rejected.

One of the proposals was two pieces of land which had been rejected by the forum. Residents said they would prefer that land to be used to provide services that the areas does not have like a police station, clinic and a high school.

Protests erupt in Woodlands as shacks demolished

Shops looted, seven arrested

By Thembela Ntongana

29 May 2018

Photo of man rebuilding shack
Mogamat Munir was rebuilding his shack on Tuesday. Photo: Thembela Ntongana

“I’m not a fighter, I just want a place to stay,” said mother of two Grazel de Vries, who has set out a plot for herself and her family on vacant land in Woodlands, Mitchells Plain.

On Monday evening the area erupted in protest after metro police demolished shacks. Shops were looted and seven people arrested, according to SAPS.

Residents had started demarcating sites on three pieces of vacant land in the area on 25 May, and some had built shacks by 28 May.

De Vries told GroundUp that she and many others had asked to be allowed to remove their own structures on Monday but police had refused.

“I told them I will remove my own structure, because they were not breaking them nicely, but they refused and took away my things.”

“I am sick and depend on a grant. I cannot afford to buy a house for me and my kids. I have been living with my sister’s family for years, I want my own space,” said de Vries.

Another resident, Mogamat Munir, father of seven, said he had been living in a small shack in his in-laws’ house for many years. Munir is unemployed and his wife works as a teacher at a nearby crèche. When GroundUp visited the area on Tuesday he had started rebuilding his shack with the little material he had left

Why funding alone can't shake up Kenya's school transition rate

Students in a Nairobi slum school. There are more than monetary barriers for parents from poor neighbourhoods. EPA/Dai Kurokawa

Ten years ago Kenya abolished tuition fees for children attending its secondary day schools. The aim was to get more children to transition into secondary school, particularly those from low income households.

Day schools, unlike boarding schools, don’t provide accommodation for learners. Instead, learners come to school in the morning and leave for home at the end of the day. The government backed measure has achieved some success as enrolment numbers have improved since 2008.

The latest available statistics from 2016 show that the net enrolment rates in secondary school was 51.3%, up from 28.9% in 2008. Net enrolment is the official age-group of school going children for a given level of education expressed as a percentage of the corresponding population.

But there have been ongoing concerns that the programme hasn’t achieved its objectives and earlier this year the government adjusted it again. The subsidy per student per year now stands at more than twice the original level introduced in 2008.

Kenya may never close Dadaab, but its threat has exposed system failures

One of the refugee camps in Dadaab, northern Kenya, where more than 300,000 call home. EPA/Boris Roessler

When Kenya announced it would close the Dadaab refugee camp in May 2016, the world reacted with shock and recriminations. Some pointed to its commitments as a signatory to conventions protecting refugees. Others argued that Kenya must not close the camp under any circumstances.

Dadaab was opened in 1991 in north eastern Kenya and is made up of five camps. It’s home to more than 300,000 refugees, 95% of whom are from Somalia. The camp was in fact never closed largely due to a Kenya High Court decision. The court ruled that Kenya’s plan to close Dadaab was “illegal” and “discriminatory,” and that the refugees could not be forcefully relocated.

UCLG participates in the UN Water public dialogue on the SDG 6 Synthesis report

UCLG participates in the UN Water public dialogue on the SDG 6 Synthesis report

UCLG contributed by sharing the insights of the publication “Start With Water“ presented at the 8th World Water Forum and underlined the crucial importance of sanitation for people, as well as the role of local authorities as they are at the forefront and the closest level of governance to the citizens in order to provide with basic services.  The report still lacks specific mentions to local and regional governments, although it acknowledges that much depends on their efforts.

Sanitation is a priority for local and regional governments

Today, 2.3 billion people do not have access to sanitation, despite the efforts made over the last fifteen years. UN Water’s report shows that many countries are out-dated, or that their responses are already obsolete. The delay in the provision of this service is a true humanitarian emergency, especially in developing and less developed countries, in which a significant shortage in sanitation provision is combining with rapid growth in urban population.

Decentralization, Local financing and Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals, key topics at the 13th annual DeLoG meeting

Decentralization, Local financing and Localization of the Sustainable Development Goals, key topics at the 13th annual DeLoG meeting

The three-day Annual Meeting was opened by Pieter Jeroense, Deputy General Director of VNG, followed by the remarks of Jelte van Wieren, Director of the Department for Stabilization and Humanitarian Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The meeting agenda was structured in four thematic sessions: Decentralization and local governance in fragile contexts and on migration and forced displacement; Urban and territorial governance; Fiscal decentralization and local financing; Localizing the SDGs.

Winners of the 3rd International Award UCLG - MEXICO City - Culture 21

winners culture award

The first edition of the Award took place in 2013-2014, and awarded the City of Belo Horizonte, as well as Manuel Castells and Farida Shaheed as for the 'Individual' category. The second one took place in 2015-2016 and awarded ex-aequo the Cities of Timbuktu and Vaudreuil-Dorion, and Jon Hawkes and Silvia Rivera Cusicanqui, as for the 'Individual' category.

Winning Design Revealed for New Complex around Seoul’s Olympic Stadium

Courtesy of NOW Architects Courtesy of NOW Architects

Built before the 1988 Summer Olympics, the Seoul Olympic Stadium in the Korean capital city’s Songpa District remains an active and treasured institution. Designed by Kim Swoo-geun, the stadium represents a significant moment in Korea’s modern history and remains a venue for large concerts and the home of Seoul E-Land FC. While the Olympic Stadium itself will stand visibly intact in its original form, this spring the Korea National Urban Planning Association staged a competition for a new design of the Jamsil Sports Complex, which includes several sporting venues and buildings adjacent to the stadium, as well as almost 160,000 square meters of total area. Following the deadline earlier this month, the jury has announced NOW Architects as the winners of the competition.

MAD launches 2018 Travel Fellowship programme

Image source:
Image source: [[www.pixabay.com]]</span>Following the successful 2017 expansion of the MAD Travel Fellowship to include international students, MAD has officially launched its 2018 global programme. The closing date for submissions is 8 June 2018.
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Some Play to Make It Work: How Millennials Impact Office Design Today

 

Office designs are not only made to look good: they are influenced by the office culture a company wants to cultivate, the furniture, architecture and designs put forward; and the generation of workers that encompass the space. Millennials entering the workforce over the past decade means the way offices look and operate are a result of how Millennials made offices a place of their own.

Image Source: https://www.globalfurnituregroup.com/us/insight/beanbags-in-the-office

Despite what the rumors say about Millennials seeking whimsy, joy and play in their lives and work, the stats don’t lie. According to Millennial Branding report, 45% of millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay, meaning a top salary can be trumped by the ability to get out, socialize—or even just get to an appointment when they need to go. This also means workspaces have adopted a more relaxed look and feel to retain Millennial talent, with the same report noting 71% of surveyed companies felt “increased workload and stress” when Millennial talent left.

Towards a UCLG Strategy on Localizing Financing for Sustainable Urbanization

Towards a UCLG Strategy on Localizing Financing for Sustainable Urbanization

Several priorities work streams have been identified and these are the following:

1. The mapping of initiatives, mechanisms and tools developed within UCLG in support of the localizing of financing, in order to build on the experience and set priorities for future action.

2. The establishment of a community of practice bringing together elected officials in charge of finance in local authorities who wish to exchange their experience, contribute directly to the development of the strategy and share its progress with UCLG's political councils.

3. The setting-up of a Global Partnership for localizing financing, a coalition of political and institutional actors at the international level called upon to build common positions and work on joint programmes.

4. The preparation of a Global Campaign on localizing financing, an 'advocacy for action' initiative.

5. In collaboration with the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), the establishment of a municipal investment fund to support the formulation and contribute to the financing of innovative municipal investment projects to be submitted for financing to national banks and/or capital markets.

Land reform and hunger in South Africa: why the two go hand in hand

Small farmers struggle to acquire expensive agricultural equipment. Shutterstock

The land reform debate in South Africa is dominated by a political agenda. This is a pity because other more relevant economic viewpoints on the subject are being ignored.

In 2015, when the last census took place, more than every second South African was marked as poor – a higher number than in 2011. For these millions of people access to affordable food and having enough to eat every day is a major challenge.

The price of agricultural products has risen steeply over the last seven years, illustrating how delicate agricultural production actually is. A basket of food items that cost R100 in 2010 rose to over R170 in 2017. A further price hike has to be avoided if the country is serious about eradicating hunger. On top of this, the price increases also reduce the disposable income of the middle class.

What this means is that politicians concerned with the structure of land ownership should also be evaluating how it will affect the supply of food. To do this, it’s imperative to understand what actually drives productivity in agriculture.

Kenya's new cybercrime law opens the door to privacy violations, censorship

A new act is trying to lock down cyber crime in Kenya. Ink Drop/Shutterstock

More and more Kenyans are connecting to the internet, most frequently from mobile devices like phones and tablets.

There are, of course, big benefits to increased connectivity. These include the rise of mobile money transactions and access to loans. But there are downsides, too. The country has been targeted by hackers in several major attacks.

In May 2018 the Kenyan government responded to these and other high profile cyber attacks by signing the Computer and Cyber Crime Act into law. This seems a strange decision, since legislation already exists that deals with these issues.

Local government in South Africa is in crisis. How it can be fixed

South Africa's Auditor General Kimi Makwetu says most municipalities in the country are dysfunctional. Flickr/CGR

Most of South Africa’s 257 municipalities are in a disastrous financial position. According to the country’s Auditor General, only 33 (13%) are in full compliance with the relevant legal requirements, and produced quality financial statements and performance reports.

The most recent audit report from Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu, shows that nearly a third (31%) of the municipalities indicated that they are not financially viable. In business terms that means they are not going concerns anymore.

According to Makwetu this dire situation can be ascribed to a range of factors. These include a lack of appropriate financial and management skills, political interference and infighting in councils. The failure to fill key personnel positions is also a problem, as is the fact that there’s clearly a lack of political will to ensure accountability.

There are serious consequences to this unacceptable state of affairs. The most important is that municipalities are unable to deliver services such as clean water, sanitation and electricity. It also means there’s a lack of maintenance of infrastructure in towns and cities all over the country. The rise in protests by disgruntled citizens is a clear sign of people’s frustration and the failure of local government to provide basic services.

Trouble stalks the wooded hills above Knynsa

Workers on the timber plantations of Sonskyn fear for their jobs

By Luke Daniel

29 May 2018

Photo of man in timber plantation
Residents of the remote village of Sonskyn fear for the future of their jobs - and their village. Photo: Luke Daniel

Woodsmen and their families who have lived for decades in the remote community of Sonskyn in the Southern Cape face an uncertain future. The pine plantation is to be handed over to the Department of Agriculture and Forestry, but no-one in the community knows if their jobs will survive

“Nobody really knows what’s going to happen,” Ntuthu Ponoyi says.

“Of course, the community is worried. Where will they go?”

Ponoyi works for Mountain To Ocean (MTO), the commercial forestry company which has managed the vast pine plantations of the Southern Cape for decades. Now the plantations are to be handed over to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) as part of an “exit strategy” agreed on in 2000, when the government announced the phasing out of certain commercial plantations belonging to the South African Forestry Company Limited (SAFCOL). The reason given for the decision at the time was that the plantations were not viable and forestry was not the right use of the land.

The area initially involved was just over 8,000 hectares in Buffelsnek, where Sonskyn is located. There have since been counter-proposals by the company and an independent evaluation. But with no clear deal in sight, a socio-economic disaster looms over Sonskyn.

WSP Architects designs new campus for century-old Hangzhou Normal University

WSP Architects designs new campus for century-old Hangzhou Normal UniversityWSP Architects has designed a new campus for century-old Hangzhou Normal University 5km west of the Xixi Wetland in Hanghzou, China. According to the firm, the new campus planning consists of more than a dozen independent but fully open colleges, whose architectural style are different, forming a rich puzzle.
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How a Smart Office Makes Work Easier

Beyond automated cleaning gadgets, futuristic sensors, and sleek screens, using smart technology is more than just a fashion statement or an attempt at looking modern and “in the know”. These are practical measures taken to make sure that workers are comfortable during work while helping them increase their efficiency and productivity.

Looking at the way business is being done these days, collaboration has become pivotal to the success of a campaign or project. One misstep in communication may mean trouble for those barely managing their respective teams. So with the advent of smart technology, work life is greatly improved by the many ways it creates a connected experience in the office.

Let’s explore the reasons smart technology can help make office life, and indeed the way we do work, easier.

Smart software cuts unnecessary processing time

Certain, manual processes take an awfully long time to finish. This eats up man hours that should have been spent finishing tasks. Spending way too much time keeping records and processing billing manually affects that speed with which we close a project. That is why we often find ourselves rushing to finish them near the deadline.

Mixed reaction to R42 million taxi rank for Dunoon

Housing should be the priority, say some residents as sports field occupied

By Peter Luhanga

28 May 2018

Photo of two men near a shack with washing on a line
Thembelane Ndabezimbi and Mabhuti Tishitiza joined scores of other residents who erected shacks on the municipal sports field. Photo. Peter Luhanga

The R42 million plan to upgrade the Dunoon taxi rank has been welcomed by taxi owners. But some residents want the City of Cape Town to prioritise housing in the township, which has been marked by land occupations and protests for several months.

On 20 May, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development Brett Herron announced that in the next two months the City would spend more than R42 million upgrading the Dunoon taxi rank into a state-of-the-art transport interchange.

Herron also said the City had bought vacant land on the other side of the N7 highway where it planned to build low cost housing for eligible Dunoon residents. There would also be retail sites and light industry, he said.

The taxi rank upgrade is to start in the next two months.

The R42 million upgrade of the Dunoon taxi rank has been welcomed by taxi owners. Graphic supplied

Cape Town’s dam levels higher than this time last year

Big Six at 24% compared to 19.8% in the same week in 2017

By GroundUp Staff

Photo of Theewaterskloof Dam during a severe drought in the Western Cape on 24 April 2018.
Theewaterskloof Dam during a severe drought in the Western Cape on 24 April 2018. Photo: Ashraf Hendricks

In the last couple of weeks the amount of water in the dams supplying Cape Town has overtaken the 2017 levels.

The City of Cape Town’s Water Dashboard shows that as of 28 May the dam levels are at 24% versus 19.8% in the same week in 2017. Also, the dam levels rose nearly three percentage points from last week’s 21.1%. This is a consequence of the recent rain and Capetonians using much less water. Last week the city used a mere 505 million litres of water per day. Compare this to last year, when on 29 May the City said, “Disappointingly, consumption remains at 666 million litres [daily], which is above the consumption target of 600 million litres.”

The dam levels on 28 May 2018 versus the same week in 2017 are:

Renewed partnerships to monitor the state of local democracy and achieve the SDGs at the heart of the UCLG Exbu

For the first time that the meetings of the governing bodies of UCLG include a dialogue between National and Local Governments, set up in collaboration with UN Habitat within the framework of the United Nations Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA) and the Global Taskforce. The sessions aimed at paving the way towards the High Level Political Forum which will take place in July and will have Goal 11 on Sustainable Cities under review.

The spaces for debate hosted by the UCLG Policy Councils created a safe environment for exchange where both national and local and regional governments representatives identified priorities to be tackled in order to achieve the universal goals underpinning the 2030 Agenda. The two day discussions underlined the need to ensure political will from national governments to increase capacities at local level. It further called for local and regional governments to embrace the global agenda as their own and enrich its implementation with local experiences and vision.

South Africa needs to reverse corporate capture of agricultural policy

South Africa is the only country in the world that permits its staple food, maize, to be grown from genetically modified seed. Shutterstock

South Africans are embroiled in heated debates about the expropriation of agricultural land. But very little space is being devoted to how the country’s scarce arable land could and should be used once it has been acquired.

This is an important part of the puzzle given that the country’s existing industrial agricultural system has failed on a number of levels. A quarter of the country’s population goes hungry every day. Price inflation makes nutritious food increasingly unaffordable and – as the listeriosis scandal recently revealed – food safety is easily compromised.