Re-imagining the established suburbs of Johannesburg involves a sustained critique of the way people move, live, interact and trade over a large area. If we can look at the city in this way, we would require more than the status quo, which simply allocates Uses to isolated pieces of land (usually fenced) that are accessible only when assisted by vehicles. We would like to suggest that a critical (and optimistic) approach might rather instigate thinking towards the possibility of creating adaptable (multiply controllable) spaces that both arrange themselves around - and are able to accommodate - both human and car scale. Can we go from the divided now into an integrated future? Sandton is, probably, the ultimate project of car-privileged access and 'islanding'. The fact is, however, that there is a huge pedestrian and small scale component which is relegated to un-integrated edges and traffic islands. In other words, we would suggest that the same paradigm governs the environment of both the 'included' and of the 'excluded'.

The growth of residential suburbs around Joburg's original business centre has created a situation where in view of incremental spread and related progressive traffic congestion, the essential character of main access routes has substantially altered. The result is that we have an odd and often uncomfortable evolution from residential to business along once leafy residential streets which are caught in a strange kind of 'highway corridor becoming'. Increasing demolition of our originally (intimate and/or exclusionary?) suburban fabric appears to result in a computer generated landscape of what could be called baronial office parks (ie with pretensions to grand homes) in which the 'street' is left untreated in an odd kind of neutrality, a nothingness, or a 'given'. The resulting fabric is one totally lacking in definition and character, and what's more, one which appears to lack any amenities for the 'man on the street'.

Around these new satellite business centres, 'buffer zones' are declared to create -illusively- an idea of mediation between distinct areas. These spaces, in reality, become kind of 'dead zones'; unregulated and unmaintained. This is the legacy of our historically inflexible town planning regulations: the binary machine of apartheid (reliant upon modernist principles of) zoning. These spaces effectively inhibit integration and they in essence lack robustness : they limit the degree of synergy that can exist between a mix of uses.

This studio aims to move way beyond town planning transportation paranoia and way further beyond the architectural obsession of creating sexy buildings. We are interested in the imaginative possibilities of a robust city form. A robust city which is able to contain not only our pasts, but is able to project our futures.

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