From 3-5 May 2018, the Architecture ZA festival (#AZA18) is inviting all those engaged with the built environment to be part of a call for participatory action around how we shape our cities collectively. Under the theme ‘WeTheCity: Memory & Resilience’, the #AZA18 programme will focus on issues of design and practice concerning environmental potential, cultural heritage and human settlement.
One of the local luminaries who will be speaking is Dr Carin Combrinck, who heads up the research field of Human Settlements and Urbanism at the University of Pretoria. Here, she shares her thoughts on the relevance of events like #AZA18.
In your own practice and/or teaching, what drives you every day?
CC: I am inspired by the students I work with, their malleability and creative rapport with the subject matter I introduce them to. The constant evolution of their concerns and aspirations in response to the fluctuations of our time offers a fluid and indeterminate context of critical engagement in which our role as spatial designers and facilitators of development is constantly challenged. In the academic context, the question of how to best prepare our young professionals for a condition of emergence requires an ability to remain aware of the deep currents of stability as well as the riptides of change, so as to navigate a course that speaks of validity and appropriateness.
What do you believe are the major challenges facing the architectural profession?
CC: Our profession faces a serious challenge of redundancy and irrelevance in the context as described above. By holding on to traditional values of professionalism and staking a claim of expert superiority, the profession has established itself as an elitist endeavour, catering only to a very small part of the population. Ironically, even within this space, the profession is relegated to the lower echelons of service delivery, so that key players in the development trajectory tend to be commercial developers, engineers and public authorities. In the public realm, policy suites such as those dedicated to human settlement bear no mention of the possible contribution by the profession, thereby underscoring the perceived lack of importance. In-fighting between various architectural bodies further aggravates this situation in a time where unity and common purpose ought to be priority.
What message will you be communicating to #AZA18 delegates?
In my presentation of ‘Mamelodi [RE]Scripted’, I will be conveying the value that we as a spatial discipline can bring to bear on the shared story of our country, beyond the first chapter of democracy. As a school of architecture, an ethos of regeneration and hope underpins the work produced by our students, contributions that are often relegated to the dusty shelves of archives, rather than enriching the common imaginaries of our society. We hope, through this visual rendition of theses done over a ten-year period, to instil some of that hope and to illicit a provocation to participate across more sectors of society so that we can assume a more significant role in our emerging cities.
What value do you see in events like #AZA18?
I see the value of shared knowledge, platforms for engagement and the possibility of critical engagement towards furthering the profession. It is also my hope that people who are not directly involved with the profession are invited to attend and contribute where possible, so as to ensure social relevance.
AA Staff Writer