What does Spatial Inequality mean?

We can all see that our current social context is deeply unequal and negatively affected by entrenched systems of social injustice. Spatial Inequality is simply the way these social injusstice manifest in our built environment (homes, neighbourhoods, towns and cities)

Wait, but what is Spatial Justice then?

Spatial Justice is a concept that fundamentally links social justice to space. (read more here)

Why is it important?

As spatial practitioners, we play a large and influential role in the production of our neighbourhoods, towns and cities; and being aware of the nature of unjust space-making patterns and variables is vital towards the overall well-being of our built environment.

What role does design play in this?

Design as a medium of practice can be deeply subjective and has the likely potential to further enhance the effects of Spatial Inequality in our cities if not actively recognised and challenged. Simultaneously design is intrinsically trans-disicplinary and speaks to multiple types of users, leaders and officials in a very fundamental manner.

Why do you talk about Spatial Design?

Spatial Design (or spatial practice) is just a collective framing of various disciplines of design under one umbrella. It is used here as an inclusive means of bringing together disparate professional and non-professionalised sectors of the built environment towards a common goal of Spatial Justice.

Why not just talk about architecture, planning, or engineering?

The concept of the profession is very different from the idea of a discipline. For the above mentioned purposes, we have found it more useful and inclusive to describe a collective practice of space or city making when we work on real projects.

That sounds complicated, why can’t I just do ‘good’ design?

You can, but the measure of ‘good’ design is often biased by the values of the profession and often limited to the commodification of tangible products (buildings, infrastructure, etc,). We believe that the missing values hidden in systemic change lie in how we approach, understand, and practice ‘good’ design and why we do this – in our case, towards Spatial Justice.

Socio-Technical Support? This sounds patronising

The personal perspectives on socially engaged practice of any kind (whether professional or personal) can be debated and re-interpreted forever. The concepts behind Socio-Technical Support, speak to the provision of a service in the face of a very unequal and very divided society, and this is the term we feel best describes the nature of the mode of practice we feel is needed.

I don’t have time for this soft stuff – I just want to get a job.

This website is not intended to ‘preach’ or pass judgement on anyone working outside of these concepts. The editors recognise that our society is economically complex and our histories are layered by different experiences of privilege and disadvantage. The resource is meant to support anyone who would like to supplement their understanding of this websites concepts or add to their current practice skill sets.

Why don’t people who do this work ever talk about their own privilege and power?

The editors of the JSD_ZA encourage and support critical reflection and discussions on the emerging and changing perspectives of the privileges, disadvantages and experiences of contemporary South African society. While we cannot promise to cover all aspects of such a dynamic context, the content, production methods and reflections will always aim to be inclusive, critical and open.

Ok, maybe I’ll read some of this…

That is all the editors and contributors of this site ask; for those working in spatial design practice in South Africa to engage with the ideas framed on this website and to grow in their own understanding of this context – and hopefully bring any missing perspectives or ideas to this platform.