UIA2014 Durban leaves legacy for SA cities and economy

11 August 2015: A year ago this week, as the UIA2014 Durban World Congress drew to a close, the South African profession was able to reflect with exhilaration on an event that was hailed by the international architectural community as one of the best organised UIA Congresses to date – an event that delivered a world class programme, exhibitions and events in a city and venue that were perceived as being engaging and convivial.


The organisers of the UIA2014 Congress had the additional satisfaction of knowing that the Congress intentions had been fully delivered. These included platforming the South African Profession globally; developing a broader public and media awareness of critical built environment issues; stimulating debate within the profession; and building a stronger brand awareness for the host organisation, the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA).

In addition to the overwhelmingly positive feedback received by the organisers, this success was emphasised in the findings of Tourism Kwa-Zulu Natal (KZN), which reported that 90% of the respondents interviewed at the Congress agreed that they would share the Scientific Programme content with students; and 95% of respondents agreed that they would apply the new insights gained from the conference to professional practice.

One of the greatest indicators of an event’s success is its media reach. On the tightest of shoestring budgets, UIA2014 achieved a significant media reach through both the mainstream and industry media. In the six months from 1 April to 30 September 2014, and excluding measurement of international coverage, 575 clips were sent out across all media types, totalling an AVE (Average Value Equivalent) of close to R24 million.

Another key objective was to create greater stakeholder engagement for the profession – locally, nationally and internationally. Among the relationships forged during the Congress preparations and event itself were those with the National and Provincial Departments of Public Works; International Union of Architects and its Member Sections; universities and educational institutions through the UIA2014 Student Programme and the founding of SAIA’s Open Architecture programme; the South African Planning Institute; the Council for the Built Environment; eThekwini Municipality’s departments through its City Architecture Department, including the Events Office, International Governance and Stakeholder Relations department, Communications Department, and Business Support Unit; and SA Tourism through the National Convention Bureau, the Durban KZN Convention Bureau and Tourism KZN.

A major part of the UIA2014 success story is the legacy that the event has left for the country’s economy as a whole, as a benchmark and inspiration for other associations to platform their achievements. According to Tourism KZN, the estimated total spend of the over 4,000 people who attended the event was between R45,514,704 and R64,460,136.

For the host city, large-scale events such as the UIA2014 World Congress have helped to position Durban as an innovative, globally competitive eventing destination. In June this year, UIA2014 was presented as a case study at a gala dinner hosted by the Durban ICC, entitled ‘Catalyst for Change’. The aim was to present the bidding process and stakeholder participation involved in the process of hosting business events, with the intention of encouraging academics and association members to host more events in the city in order to drive economic and social change.

And, on 3 August 2015, exactly one year after the opening of the UIA2014 Durban World Congress, Thulani Nzima, CEO of South African Tourism, announced that it is essential for South Africa’s tourism industry to concentrate on hosting business events. Speaking at the 29th congress of the Southern African Association for the Conference Industry (SAACI) in Cape Town, Mr Nzima commented on the fact that South Africa is rated as the number one international conference destination in Africa and the Middle East and among the top 15 long haul international conference destinations.

At the same event, Amanda Kotze-Nhlapo, Executive Manager of the SA National Convention Bureau (SANCB) – one of the UIA2014 partners – observed that the events industry in South Africa can play a crucial role in changing international perceptions of South Africa for the better, and in growing the knowledge economy on the African continent.

The legacy of ‘Architecture Otherwhere’ lives on – in the minds and practice of practitioners, academics, stakeholders and students; and in the economic and social legacy of creating valuable opportunities for South Africans in both business and education.