Just Spatial Design

An cross-disciplinary framing to spatial design practice that work through principles of Spatial Justice in the approach, methods and strategic direction of projects in response to systems of Spatial Inequality.

Just Spatial Design is offered as a practice concept (in line with Spatial Design) that goes beyond the cross-disciplinary framing and embeds important principles of Spatial Justice in how projects are conducted and strategically framed to respond to larger systems of Spatial Inequality.
A Just Spatial Design approach encourages practitioners to engage with the both the larger scale as well as the inter-personal challenges of contemporary socio-spatial justice and co-develop projects and processes to engage with these dynamics (ie. gender, race, social class e.t..c)
Developing a Just Spatial Design Approach – Image: JDS_ZA

The legacy of the colonial and Apartheid spatial systems in South African towns and cities remains one of the most enduring social ill in post 1994 South Africa – many social and economic disparities are further enhanced and entrenched by the spatial inequality we occupy daily. The endemic nature of this inequality makes addressing it harder while re-enforcing the above-mentioned issues.

Unequal Scene – Johnny Miller

The intent behind the idea of Just Spatial Design to design in South Africa is born from a critical recognition of this aspect of South African life and the subsequent exclusion of the grass-roots people, neighborhoods and collectives that are most affected by this from the ‘professionalised’ aspects of spatial re-development.

Scale of Engagement in relation to User/Agent of Spatial Change/Design – Image:Bennett

The approach began from the traditions of architectural training and practice, but leaves behind the boundaries and titles of the profession in order to expand the disciplinary practice of space making and radically include actors at both the grass-roots scale as well as the larger more intangible scales of policy and stigma, as well a means to draw in diverse social and technical experiences and proactively engage with the power imbalances that currently exist in the efforts supporting South Africa’s post-1994 spatial re-development.

This concept is still in early development, and will be continuously iterated, challenged, edited and re-published here.

Characteristics of a Jus’t Design Approach

  • Self-Critical (questioning, challenging, self-reflective)
  • Socially Aware (demographic Positionally awareness ie gender, race, culture, etc.)
  • Empathetic (equity, inclusive, open)
  • Proactive (responsible, careful, and forthcoming)
  • Process driven (project managerial, goal oriented, motivated)
  • Structured (organised, clear, and driven)
  • Visual and/or Social Communicative (open, dynamic, engaging)
  • Facilitative (inclusive, listener, sharer)
  • Design-Led (iterative, solution driven, innovative)