Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Urban Fabric of Post-Apartheid Africa

-Hourmazd Farhadi-

Since the abolition of Apartheid in 1994, the South African government has been saddled with the job of redeeming the social and urban structure of Cape Town, which still bears the aftermath of the apartheid years in its identity as well as its planning.

Due to the segregation that was entrenched in South African society at the time, the apartheid city was dominated by a pattern of low-density, largely single-storey housing for white people, with high density slums occurring in pockets of land where there would be informal housing and constraints on land availability for the native blacks.

Because of the sprawl of the neighborhoods, as well as the regulatory control and spatial allocation of the British planning system in Cape Town, there was a lack of community identity and connection between the different neighborhoods of the city.
The urban fabric was fragmented and discontinuous, with neighborhoods frequently separated by buffers of immense open space, infrequently bridged by roads. Different land uses were greatly separated, so it would be a journey to travel from residence to work, or even to school.

The Solution that the post-apartheid urban planners suggested for the renovation of the social and urban fabric of Cape Town was to essentially establish a balance between the primeval nature, the rural, and the urban. The best land would be used for conservation, setting aside the worst to improve the diversity and complexity of the city.

Urban environments would be created in the large spaces of unnatural buffers between settlements, easily accessible by foot (or, preferably, a well-developed transportation system). Also, the hope was to increase the density of the residential areas in order to counteract the urban sprawl of the one-storey neighborhoods. This would also be a prerequisite for an effective transportation system.

In conclusion, in order to tie the urban structure of the city and its people together without the poison of racism or segregation, it would be necessary to create more public environments and more closely-built settlements, which would in effect also make the possibility of creating an effective transportation system much more feasible.

Osmanovic, Armin. Transforming South Africa. Hamburg: Institut für Afrika-Kunde.
Bhorat, Haroon, and Ravi Kanbur. "Poverty and Policy in Post Apartheid South Africa." (2006).

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