CHANGE BY DESIGN JOBURG 2023
In 2023, Architecture Sans Frontieres – United Kingdom (ASF-UK) and 1to1 – Agency of Engagement (1to1) led a multidisciplinary group of action-research volunteers to support local grassroots efforts in addressing housing challenges within the inner-city of Johannesburg through the Change by Design Methodology.
Participants took part in a one-day online symposium in December 2022 and a one-week live workshop in Johannesburg in January 2023. Throughout this period, they worked closely with 1to1 – Agency of Engagement and their civil society partners, adapting the Change by Design methodology to explore how community-led design and planning can contribute to advancing housing justice in inner-city Johannesburg.
The 2023 workshop explored two different types of inner-city sites: an informal settlements, and a cluster of informally occupied buildings. Building upon 1to1’s ongoing activities and partnerships with advocacy groups and grassroots leadership, the aim was to support local residents and their organisations in their efforts to create fairer living conditions in the two areas.
The workshop was split into two parts: a preparatory online symposium, and one week live workshop that culminated in a final event.
The workshop aimed to understand the role of community-led design and planning in promoting housing justice in inner city Johannesburg. The project team and felt that inner city areas were places where housing deprivation and human rights violations are common and that there is a lack of understanding of the conditions and experiences of housing informality and precarity in these areas.
They believed that community-led design and planning could support civic and grassroots actors in their housing justice work and that organised collective action was needed to advance the housing rights of inner city residents.
The expected outcome of the workshop was to capture and amplify diverse experiences of housing informality in inner city Johannesburg, and the future aspirations of residents and their organisations.
The workshop utilised ASF-UK’s Change by Design methodology to support collaboration and mutual learning about urban space and improve local living conditions. The CBD methodology has four stages: diagnosis, dreaming, developing, and defining. The initial stages are used to facilitate co-design activities at three scales: micro, meso, and macro. The 2023 workshop focused on the first two stages of the process (diagnosis and dreaming) and centred on two sites, Bertrams and Jumpers, to facilitate comparative learning. In each site, the micro, meso, and macro scales were used to guide and coordinate three groups of participants, each supported by ASF-UK/1to1’s facilitators.
The ethical standards and ethics board of institutions, organisations, and companies tend to focus on legal concerns around ethics or high-level moral principles. However, for the workshop, the focus is on Ethics-in-Action and navigating the complicated interpersonal dynamics that manifest in our work. The workshop outlined key concepts for a reflective approach to ethical practice, including being considerate of one’s presence in contexts of inequality and understanding positionality. It also highlighted the importance of informed consent and data protection in research practice. The document provides resources for further information on these topics and encourages ongoing reflection and learning.
The city of Johannesburg in South Africa was built in response to extractive industrial forces, with no clear origins, and is situated away from natural water resources. The city’s location was influenced by a meteor strike 2 billion years ago, which brought the gold seam closer to the surface. Johannesburg’s urban form was shaped by the mining belt, which split the city across an affluent-labour force divide. Johannesburg is one of the most unequal cities in the world. Even though the pass laws were revoked and the Apartheid State dismantled in 1994, endemic spatial inequality in South Africa remains.
South Africa’s socio-economic inequality is a broadly discussed topic of research and public debate. However, socio-spatial inequality remains an elusive and collectively murky topic. Johannesburg was built before the Group Areas Act, but the separative patterns of labour, industry and housing put in place by both the Transvaal government and later British colonial forces preceded an urban structure that was later entrenched through the control of labour between the city centre, the townships and the rural homelands through the larger Apartheid system.
The twentieth-century Apartheid city model, implemented by law, very specifically separated inhabitants and users along strict zoning and racial definitions as set out by city planners and mandated by the national government. Each adopted an internal core – a Central Business District (CBD)- that acted as a hub between industrial areas, outlying white neighbourhoods, and non-white townships and severely controlled access times, modes, and users. The model employed various natural and manmade ‘buffers’ to separate these areas that included industrial zones, rivers, mountains and, in the case of Johannesburg, the unusable mining extracted ore known locally as the ‘mine dumps’.
Bertrams is a suburb located on the eastern edge of Johannesburg’s CBD in South Africa. It is named after the property developer who bought the area in 1889. Bertrams is a warm and welcoming suburb, despite its high unemployment rate, and is situated near the University of Johannesburg. The housing in Bertrams ranges from fenced brick houses to apartment buildings, many of which serve as student accommodation.
However, many of these buildings have not been well-maintained, causing health and safety hazards. The priority block, which is located between Gordon Road and Berea Road, consists of buildings occupied by groups of people who work together to maintain the cleanliness and liveability of their buildings. The land is owned by the municipality, with informal social tenure amongst the residents of the buildings.
Jumpers is a small informal settlement located in Johannesburg’s Cleveland area, to the east of the CBD. The settlement is named after the Jumpers Deep Gold Mine which was established in 1898 and operated until 1913. Most of the people living in Jumpers reside in corrugated iron sheeting shacks, with some living in small brick homes or wooden board shacks.
The settlement has community leaders, a creche, little shops, and bars for entertainment. People living in Jumpers commute to places like Sandton to work as domestic workers, gardeners, in supermarkets, or in taverns. The area is densely packed, with narrow walkways and gravel roads accessible by cars. The settlement has cuca shops where residents sell fruits, vegetables, and daily household items to make an income.
In December 2022, an online symposium was organized to support the upcoming 2023 Change by Design workshop in Johannesburg. The symposium aimed to bring together partners, stakeholders, and participants from the broad network, making participation easy and accessible. The symposium was split into two parts: the Workshop Participants Session and the Public Symposium. The Public Symposium had two panels, the first discussing the challenges faced by people living in informal settlements in the city and the second focusing on community-led design and planning agenda.
On January 22, 2023, the 2023 Change by Design workshop began with an opening session, bringing together all participants to encourage reflection and engagement through a series of reflective questions. The following day, the workshop participants took a city tour that provided them with a rich and insightful experience, fostering a deeper appreciation of the challenges and opportunities that arise from designing for social change in the South African context.
On Tuesday, the participants embarked on their first day of fieldwork in Jumpers and Bertrams. The experience highlighted the importance of understanding the social dynamics that underpin settlements like Jumpers and the need for a collaborative approach to designing interventions that can create positive change in these communities.
The third continued the multi-scalar approach, focusing on the micro, meso, and macro levels of the sites to understand shared systems, spaces, and narratives.
The fourth day was the final day of fieldwork, providing an opportunity to tie up any loose ends in the exercises and ensure that all participants were connected to the project’s future.
The fifth and final event was an important moment for the workshop as various project stakeholders came together to creatively and collaboratively design actionable next steps towards the project’s aims and needs. The event was open to city officials, academic partners, NGOs, residents, and anyone interested in the project’s topics and was held at the School of Architecture and Planning in the University of the Witwatersrand’s John Moffat building.
Overall, the final event was a crucial moment in the workshop as it provided space for various project stakeholders to come together, share insights, and collaborate on actionable next steps towards the project’s aims and needs.
CBD 2023 – Workshop CallRead more: CBD 2023 – Workshop Call
Workshop 1 – Online SymposiumRead more: Workshop 1 – Online Symposium
Day 0 – Introduction & WelcomeRead more: Day 0 – Introduction & Welcome
Day 1 – City TourRead more: Day 1 – City Tour
Day 3 – Field Work ContinuedRead more: Day 3 – Field Work Continued
Day 4 – Final ActivitiesRead more: Day 4 – Final Activities
Day 5 – CLOSING EventRead more: Day 5 – CLOSING Event
Day 6 – Wrapping UpRead more: Day 6 – Wrapping Up
REFLECTION & WAY FORWARD
The Change by Design 2023 Workshop was an important step towards addressing the complex challenges surrounding housing justice in Johannesburg, with a particular focus on inner-city informal settlements and occupied buildings. One of the key objectives of the workshop was to support community facilitators in their training skills and to help make and record the evidence of the work that various project partners have been doing for years. The workshop brought together stakeholders from various backgrounds, including grassroots networks, NGOs, academic institutions, and government officials, to collaborate and share knowledge.
The workshop was organized into three main groups, each focusing on different scales of the sites in Bertrams and Jumpers. The groups explored a range of issues, including collaborative networks, multi-stakeholder approaches, and the difficulty of translating policy into practice. The lack of a policy for upgrading occupied buildings and limited options for community-led housing were identified as significant challenges. As a result, the workshop provided several recommendations for the future, including a focus on upgrading occupied buildings, addressing knowledge gaps around affordability and physical conditions, enhancing the capacity of grassroots activists, and promoting knowledge exchange beyond Johannesburg.
The workshop also served as a platform for stakeholders to collaborate and share their experiences, strategies, and best practices. The event concluded with a presentation of initial work and an open discussion about potential ways forward for these sites. Attendees included representatives from grassroots networks, NGOs, and academic institutions. The workshop supported community facilitators in their training skills and helped make and record evidence of the work that various project partners have been doing for years. Overall, the workshop was an important step towards advancing housing justice in Johannesburg and promoting sustainable solutions for inner-city informal settlements and occupied buildings.
The workshop brought together stakeholders to collaborate and share experiences, strategies, and best practices and supported community facilitators training. The next steps will involve building on this momentum and working collaboratively towards sustainable solutions for inner-city informal settlements and occupied buildings.
The next steps following the Change by Design 2023 Workshop will involve implementing recommendations made between the project team in order to advance housing justice in Johannesburg, with a focus on policy dimensions around upgrading occupied buildings, addressing knowledge gaps in practice, enhancing grassroots activists’ capacity, and promoting knowledge exchange.
Beatrice De Carli
Tahmineh Hooshyar Emami
1to1 – Agency of Engagement
Asivikalane Community Facilitators
Ana Muñoz Antuña
Zainab Al Mansour
Shannon Fisher (Volunteer)
Veronica Frederico (Volunteer)