Wednesday, October 27, 2010

AZA Master Class 2010 - Convertible Cities

This year's Architectural Student Congress was combined with the Architecture ZA (AZA 2010) and held in Newtown, Johannesburg. AZA 2010 hosted a Master Class session, which were attended by several prominent professionals and hosted at Arts on Main, just West of Johannesburg's CBD.

I was chosen amongst several other student submissions for an Autodesk Sponsored entry into the Master Class program held at the end of the first week.


The Convertible City - Ivan Kucina and Dustin A Tusnovics

'This dynamically experimental master class offers to look for new models of development strategies from as far afield as Vienna and the Balkans while honing participants' approach to design thinking on all scales. Ivan Kucina will draw on his experience of the illegal building sprawl of the Western Balkan. In response to the independence movement, the process of geopolitical fragmentation has been termed Balkanization. Meanings of "Balkanization" have expanded across the world to connote any kind of urban dissolution. It has come to mean a counter action to the integrating and homogenizing effects of globalization. This system is providing a new model of urban development that is abandoning the ideal of the planned and synchronized unification of the socialist system. Kucina's master class will see him teamed up with other leading urban experimentalists to explore strategies to convert Joburg's lines of division - its physical and mental boundaries - into places of positive social exchange.

Dustin A Tusnovics also brings his vast European experience to the table to support and counterpoint the lesson from the Balkans. His engagement in a trans-disciplinary discourse on sustainable architecture has resulted in the realisation of several community-based poverty relief projects in South Africa which implement sustainability through hands-on engagement with needy communities.'

Newness is produced through conflict and negotiation between institutions and individuals.
 - Ivan Kucina

 * Excerpt taken from AZA Master Class Brief

The video below is the summary of the process and the work followed by the explanation in more detail  

The research group was made up of five students from various Universities in South Africa and was intended to feed Ivan's research towards his blog under the same name: Convertible Cities.

Convertible City is a research project that explores strategies to convert Joburg’s lines of division – its physical and mental boundaries - into places of positive social exchange. Urban boundaries could be considered a result of “disintegration” (social, functional, legal, economic, cultural, political, both historic and contemporary) in combination with the imperatives of rapid urban growth. These boundaries appear everywhere in the city at many levels, shapes and scales in both space and time. They could be seen to encompass the whole spectrum of urban phenomena: from informal to institutional, from temporal to eternal … This master class will propose that these boundaries signify the space, the line and the gap between different individuals, groups, territories and interests.
Taking a multiplicity of urban divisions as our starting point, this project aims to establish a provisional taxonomy of Joburg’s many states and expressions of ‘limit’ and ‘boundary’. The chosen situations will be scanned and mapped to expose the network of vibrant relations between social actors, their behaviors and the built environment. Using a series of diagrams to navigate through the mapped territory, each participant will then conceptualize a system of interventions that can act to convert boundaries into critically meaningful alternatives.
We aim to expose and capitalize upon a variety of complementary conversion concepts: the growth of bottom-up initiatives; the empowerment of concurrent states of existence; the fusion of multiplicity; the deviation of limitations; the ability to take the initiative for limited time; a bit of coexistence where there’s nothing left to lose but a lot to add; the most literal application of basic building tools; capacity building of a host body to adapt to uncoordinated external partitions; enlargement of the voids between fulfilled desires and continual delays due to undetermined construction processes…
Participants will create a comprehensive variety of outcomes at a diverse scale of strategic intent. From portable devices and installations to public building and the formation of new types of public space, this workshop will provide an intense bubble for experimentation and debate as we come to grips with Joburg’s many extremes of urban reality.

* Excerpt taken from Convertible Cities

Convertible Cities 2010
Upon receiving the brief from Ivan the students studied the map of Johannesburg's CBD and decided, based on their proximity to Arts on Main and main life, that they would use choose a site within walking distance. Their intention being to choose a context that would have the energies required to fulfill a diverse mapping process.

Mapping Troye Street

The Site
The students chose the route from Park Central Taxi Rank to Commissioner Street's BRT stop along Troye street as the group decided they would explore the connectivity of people in the CBD and resolve the brief from that standpoint.

Site Location - Park Central to Commisioner Street
After a brief mapping exercise the group set to work, depicting the mapping process onto their framework that they had laid out before hand. The intention was to express their experience's through the CBD via the mapping and try convey what they felt and saw along the route. 

Initial Concept
From these concept diagram the group proposed various interventions, agreeing that through connectivity they could increase the social cohesion of the urban city dwellers through incentive based game player scenarios at various points. 

Concept Model - Social Interaction

Concept Diagram - Incentive Nodes

Giving name to the system: SACCS - Campus of Life

The themes that governed the program were based on the notion of the contrast of the CBD contrasting to the rest of JHB as  playground of pleasure versus a playground of survival with the CBD context being the location of the survival.

Playground of Pleasure

Playground of Survival

Through this analogy the group sought to 'convert the city' through breaking down the barriers of education by integrating the people of the city into a connected social group, who together can strive to a more educated and cohesive society themselves.
The idea being that the people involved in their day to lives could participate at various nodes to work together at these points to gain credits in the form of either transport tokens, food tokens or access into beginner level course at various tertiary education systems in the CBD. 

These points would be enhanced by the opening up of the ground floors of various building increasing the shop frontage that shops have and providing more opportunities through the movements of people.

FNB Faculty of Business

These tertiary systems would be sponsored by the building who host the game players points on their ground level. i.e the FNB faculty of business, hosting a multi-player incentive point whereby users who take part and complete a series of business related questions together in a certain time would gain education credits to allow them access into the system. 
Or the Pick 'n Pay transport node where users who clean the bus stop would be given food tokens and so on.

The methods of linking these points of interactivity would be done via cell phones, CCTV digital displays and other digital media. These would then supplement other campus activities such as the fashion schools who display their designs on ramps found on top of the BRT stops and displayed throughout the CBD via CCTV.

BRT Cat Walk with CCTV Link

Other faculty points would be retrofits of existing buildings such as the Drill Hall, where the Arts Faculty would open up to the youth in the area and provide a space for expression of art and display student work.

Drill Hall Art Faculty
These interventions were marked out on key points on the framework, with the entire display creating a sensual display of the barriers and debris that a typical city dweller deals with on a daily basis.


Final Presentation

AZA Master Class 2010 - The Other Master Classes

During the Master Class I was fortunate enough to participate in, several others were run. 
More information can be found at AZA 2010 - Master Classes

Although I did not see all the final products, below are some of the works I managed to document. The quality of the shots isn't great, but I hope the ideas and the richness of the process can be seen.

I also included Hugh Fraser's Digital Design Workshop, it was on display at the same venue and exhibited very interesting forms and textures.


Michael Sorkin, Duzan Doepel (presented by Autodesk), Lindsay Bremner and Hilton Judin 
Re-Imagining the Mining Belt will lay claim to the mining belt through opportunistic, experimental design thinking aimed at generating new urban relations, inventing new urban infrastructures, creating new urban publics and reasserting the mining belt into the urban imagination.

Once a churning metallurgical landscape, the mining land, with its headgear and golden dumps provided not only the city's wealth, but also its iconic images. Johannesburg was synonymous with its mine dumps. Today this has changed. The dumps are disappearing. The mining belt is contested terrain. For some it is a toxic dump site; for others it is a source of new wealth through micro extraction and real estate development; some see it as disappearing urban heritage and for others, un-accommodated elsewhere in the urban system, it provides invisibility and cover.

The master class begins with the proposition that the mining belt is an environmental, economic and cultural resource for a more sustainable city. It asks architects to engage conceptually with this terrain vague, this unstable seam, this site where the city reveals itself, to imagine and represent its potential for future generations. It includes a site visit, the screening of a documentary, a workshop with stakeholders and the mapping of alternative scenarios. '

Architecture is involved in all kinds of systems, not just the use of materials and the consumption of energy. Architecture - simply put, a building - is always an interface between communication, social structures, economics and use.
- Duzan Doepel (presented by Autodesk) from his keynote address at AZA2010

* Excerpt taken from AZA Master Class Brief

Re- Imagining the Mining Belt - The Final Presentation
Concept Page - Igolide Elisha ( New Gold)

Soutfontein                                        Linear City                                               Historicity

   Detoxicity                                                       Urban Farm


'Through two days of intense walks throughout Joburg, participants may discover that no existing postcard of this city describes it either fully or partially. During the walks, they will each record, draw, photograph, print, write and capture the most unique, novel, everyday, inventive, imaginative and critical postcard of this city. "We will produce and present these postcards as the shortest story of this city: Johannesburg," says Seraji.

The key to better architectural practice, believes Seraji, lies in unlocking one's capacity for critical thinking. She proposes "a voyage through the most condensed periods of our practice of architecture in the past ten years - days of total disappointment, hours of extreme joy, and moments of radical thought: the life of an architect."  '

Architects often forget that critical thinking depends on exposure, and that the simplest form of debate must start with a proposition. I believe that criticism is an essential interface that allows the architect to engage with the greater public. Somewhere in the 70s and 80s, architecture lost its conviction, its capacity for political activism, its power. It rose to stardom in the 90s; and when architects became as well known as pop singers, everyone started to desire architecture. Perhaps it is time to stop abusing the power of architecture and allow it to become once again a platform for critically, social awareness, and political engagement. We still believe in the power of architecture to make environments that allow us to enquire, measure, and determine our active position in society.

- Nasrine Seraji from her AZA2010 keynote address

* Excerpt taken from AZA Master Class Brief


Digital Design and Fabrication Workshop - 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Slovo Park Project - The Beginning

Quarter 4

The final quarter at the University of Pretoria allows for the students to select one project undertaken in the year under: Housing and Urban Environments, Heritage & Cultural Landscapes and Environmental Potential.

The intention is for the student to take the proposal further into a design detailed level of resolution. This project then is detailed through to much more holistic architectural level. This quarter is also supplemented by an elective theory course in order to prepare the student for the Thesis Year ahead.

My choice was the Housing and Urban Environment  project, as I felt there was still much to do and learn in Slovo Park. 
The initial research group remained the same with the inclusion of a new member who worked on a different site, but whose design was not site based. 

The Plan
Our lecturer's offered us that, due to the level of community interaction, we could build a part of our intervention. But we would have to fund, manage and build the design with the community over the next 6 weeks. This built product would then be assessed on site and would be our final mark.
Getting Started
The first task was to decide which project to go through with, as the other students in the class would take forward their individual designs done over 8 weeks in the previous semester, we as a group would take further a group design, as our individual proposed designs were much more ambitious than we could possibly build with little to no money and in the time frame we had. 
Choosing a Site
After we presented our individual work to the community during one of their official meeting we understood that their was no formal meeting spaces and the informal spaces did not work very well.

We chose a site, identified in Urban Analysis framework, as a key point at which the development of Slovo would take place by creating a platform for people to meet and discuss the future of their community.

(Bennett, Casson, Makgabutlane, Fillipe , Hattingh ; 2010)

The Project In Brief...
After being contacted by the community of Slovo Park the University of Pretoria with the community have been researching and designing an upgrading and development plan for the settlement over the last few months.

The research team, made up of the community and the students, have identified a small portion of their proposed design in the form of a Community Center that will be built over the next six weeks.

The team has to arrange the funding, build the project and manage the entire process.

A comprehensive information pack is available on the Slovo Park Project Website 

The Built Proposal
The design put together was infused with the principles learned during the individual proposals and seeks to provide the first step towards a much larger development. 
This pilot intervention will lay the framework for the future development by uniting the community under a common goal and using that energy to project the project past our interaction with the community and make the design a true bottom up initiative.
Each built piece is intended to provide the necessary infrastructure for the community to use as its intended function now, without compromising its adaptability in future:


The design of the paving with the intentional space for future columns to build the 'future blue print' for the community
the low seating walls for the mobile clinic waiting area will become the foundation walls for the proposed clinic in the future phase e.t.c

Built Phase & Future Phase. 
The Built Phase will be the re-refurbishment of the existing community structure over the 6 weeks, this will set up the construction sequence for a much larger project development which we designed with the community.

The Future Phase is designed on a much larger scale and  requires more infrastructure and time than we have, but is outlined by the Built Phase
Each phase is incrementally designed so at each point the design can be critically reviewed by the community themselves to ascertain the most effective path towards the built product.'

Diagram of Building Phases - Presented to Community
Current State
The Slovo Park Project Team have begun site works, and are constantly seeking more funding and donations.
Below is the current program for the community building team.

The Slovo Park Project team has received overwhelming support from the community and is busy with site works at the moment, and moving swiftly along the scheduled program.