The 2018 module follows on the success of the last 5 years of the ‘Alternative Practice’ model supported by Architecture Sans Frontieres UK’s Challenging Practice Model in 2016 & 2017.
The focus this year was on Guide Lines for Engagement for socio-technical spatial design engagement for practice in South Africa.
The South African city we experience today did not simply manifest in a vacuum outside of the social injustice of the last 400+ years of colonial and Apartheid ‘development’; the 4-hour commute that the average Johannesburg city user experiences, the sense of fractured locality across the metropolitans of Durban and Pretoria and the intact socio-economic segregation of ‘townships’ to suburbs seen in Cape Town are all the tangible legacies of the Apartheid city design that we complicity accept as our South African city on a daily basis. The knee-jerk reaction by built environment practitioners to this realisation, is typically a technocratic response of; “If the city was designed to be segregated, we can design it to be connected!’- more infrastructure, more housing and more roads…’. The fact remains that among the large-scale projects our democratic government has implemented we sit with infrastructure deficits larger today than 1994.
Richard Sennett claims that ‘the city’ as always offered the potential to re-invent, re-assemble and re-imagine; Johannesburg and the other metropolitans in South Africa are no different. The practice of ‘making city’ in South Africa requires some form of radical change, one that calls on all city makers to re-conceptualise how we see, make and manage our spaces. While technical skills and competencies are vital to this approach, the immediate challenge for built environment practitioners can be seen in the lack of skill or willingness of individuals and institutions to engage with the socio-political complexity of our cities. The misnomer that what we are dealing with a homogenous technical challenge for a homogenous social demographic of people, or ‘community’, that can be solved through a ‘better house/shack/dwelling’, a more efficient toilet system or solar panel array is damaging and criminally myopic in its lack of imagination, creativity or recognition of the situation.
ASF-UK’s CHALLENGING PRACTICE:
Challenging Practice is a short course methodology that exposes practitioners of the built environment to the complexity of working with communities, government agencies and other spatial stakeholders through an intensive two-day action learning process. This course was developed by Architecture Sans Frontieres (http://www.asf-uk.org/programmes/challenging-practice ).
Challenging practice is an independent-learning programme that seeks to enable built environment practitioners to engage reflexively with the challenges of inclusive and sustainable urban development. Challenging practice is based on principles of active, dynamic, action-based learning. The programme is grounded in theories of situated knowledge and reflective practice, and places a strong emphasis on the ethical component of action-learning.
This section of the course is considered Stage A of the ASF-UK teaching framework. If the students choose to complete the Stage B and C of Challenging Practice after this module they will receive a course certificate that is RIBA recognised.
While the first semester of Professional Practice dealt with conventional office practice, this 2nd module of the course aims to equip students with knowledge and skills to operate outside of the context of conventional office practice and aims to address the socio-spatial complexity of South Africa.
At the same time this module seeks to give space for critical dialogue around the socially engaged design practice in South Africa while exposing students to a proven curriculum (Challenging Practice) that actively supports critical design praxis. The course has been structured to allow for moments of open dialogue, action learning and a co-productive workshop with invited local experts to build an ethical framework that can apply to South African design practice.
The student’s involvement in this course will support the production of a visual guide to socio-technical spatial design practice in South Africa.
The full Critical Practice course intends to challenge the built environment professionals’ existing knowledge and perspectives, to enable them to gain an understanding of habitat through a socially focused lens of engagement. STAGE A of the ASF-UK’s Challenging Practice has been adapted to the South African context in order to expose students to the broad approach of ASF International by introducing them to core concepts of ‘critical’ spatial design development practice or Socio-technical Spatial Design praxis.
GUIDELINES FOR SOCIO-TECHNICAL SPATIAL DESIGN IN SOUTH AFRICA:
Each group produced their own guidelines by the assigned themes. These were presented back to a panel of local grass-roots and socio-technical leaders and experts for discussion:
Group 1: Guidelines for: Research – Interviews
Group 2: Guidelines for: Research – Mapping
Group 3: Guidelines for: Research – Dialogue & Engagement
Group 4: Guidelines for: Design – Discussion * (visitor’s choice)
Group 5: Guidelines for: Design – Planning & Preparation
Group 6: Guidelines for: Design – Dialogue * (visitor’s choice)
Group 7: Guidelines for: Implementation – Checking & Evaluation
Group 8(12plus13): Guidelines for: Implementation – Dialogue