In 2014, after moving into Johannesburg's inner city, I became involved with a group of artists who had started a very interesting project around engaging 'positively' with Johannesburg's inner city, commonly known as the 'Joburg CBD'.
They called their project Joburg Joburg, reference to the South Africanism of repeating a word to add emphasis to its meaning:
Person 1: So Johan, where are you staying theses days?
Johan: I'm living in Joburg.
Person 2: Oh, I hear Sandton is very nice.
Johan: No, I'm living in Joburg
Person 2: So like Parktown?
Johan: No, like Joburg Joburg - downtown CBD.
This adage has a base in the other more popular South Africanism of Now Now: see here for more details.
This scenario holds a seminal message of why the Joburg Joburg was conceived - many people don't see the inner city Joburg as Joburg, instead they see it as a dangerous no-go zone of unnaccessible spaces occupied by a crime syndicate bent on murdering everyone who crosses it's threshold.
This stigma, which is endemic of many South African public spaces, is the very thing the Joburg Joburg team and myself were looking to understand and explore through our various projects under Joburg Joburg.
See more details on the website here: https://joburgjoburg.wordpress.com/
|Image: Johan Stegman|
|Image: Johan Stegman & Allen Laing|
|Image: Johan Stegman|
As part of the arrangement was that I was allowed stay on the roof at corner house for a nominal fee where I took up residence in the Apartheid planned 'domestic quarters'.
These spaces were the logistic outcome of the Group Areas Act that did not allow black people to live in the same structure as white people which in the suburban areas manifested into what we see today as the 'maid's room' a separate room on the boundary of suburban properties.
But in the city these spaces were placed on the roof's of building and carefully designed with shared (under serviced) ablutions, lockable areas (to keep people in, not out) and windows that are too high to see out of, but provide the minimal amount of ventilation to pas regulation.
These spaces are still in use all over Johannesburg, and hold amazing potential to allow mixed income housing as well as developing a more integrated urban culture - but continue to be used to house a a portion of the labour sector in quite unfair conditions.
Rooftop Socio-Spatial Planning
This initial task was to design and strategies a way to maximise the use of the rooftop space, which is currently underutilised and create a shared environment that only brings the various stakeholders on the roof together, but creates a space for others to access city from.
|Rooftop Garden Proposal|
Beyond Corner House I also provided spatial strategies, alongside colleagues from Johannesburg, for other buildings which were met with a similar response.
|View from the Roof Roof Roof|
Although the my time with Joburg Joburg was not productive in shifting the perspective of those I worked with I managed to conduct many interesting projects with the city spaces I worked on and used on daily basis.
Rooftop & Basement Measuring Mission
Documentation of measuring and rooftop exploration of downtown buildings
Capturing the iconic summer storms that makes define a high veld summer
Small scale social cycling trips headed by Blanca Calvo
Unfortunately my time with Joburg Joburg has come to an end, and I am know residing on the edge of the inner city in the vibrant and interconnected Braamfontein District.
|Vie from Civic Towers to Inner City|