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UJ Creativity Week - 2013

*NOTE:  Reposted from 1to1 - Agency of Engagement's story by Jhono Bennett - UJ Creativity Week 2013 

In the early part of 2013 1to1 - Agency of Engagement (executed by Jhono Bennett) was commissioned by the University of Johannesburg's Architecture Department to manage and facilitate their Creativity Week held in Johannesburg’s inner city and the FADA Building during February 4th - 8th 2013.


Working within a facilitated partnership between Dr. Barbara HoltmannEmma Holtmann and Alexander Opper, as well as employing he precedented work of the Creativity Week 2012 by Eric Wright the week long programme was intended to facilitate the introduction and further development of Architectural thinking, doing and problem solving in Johannesburg’s dynamic inner city spaces - while bringing together the students from the various years. This facilitation the exposed the students to the larger strategies of the stakeholders involved in this area.

The two focus areas for the project


Students were asked to take part in the week long programme planned and engage in a series of workshops, exercises and events to develop their own understanding of the contextual nature this vibrant urban area in order to propose their own solutions to the issues they come across, and present these ideas to the stakeholders at week’s end.


In a process facilitated by Dr. Barbara Holtmann Joburg Child Welfare and Joburg Region F have brought together government, business and NGOs in the inner city. This collaboration is aimed at bringing about a systemic transformation of the neighbourhood surrounding and including the Old Drill Hall, which is the site of Joburg Child Welfare’s Thembalethu project.

The inner city is an unsafe environment for children, upon whom poor regulation and lack of access to services impact in a range of ways. The environment is unfriendly to interventions of a socially transformative nature and this further disadvantages children living in the neighbourhood.

By focusing on “what-it-looks-like-when-it’s-fixed” and co-creating a shared vision for the future of the inner city based on integrated approaches and partnerships, the process promotes change in three primary and inter-connected areas: health and wellness, access and mobility in the city and in supporting the city’s “Clean Sweep” initiative aimed at beautifying and cleaning the city.

This process has helped stakeholders identify areas of overlap and shared objectives. Based on this analysis, each area of focus will be supported by a team who will work collectively as a forum. In this way a wide and inclusive range of participants can, through collaboration and visionary thinking, impact the systemic degradation that characterizes the inner city and reduce the vulnerability of its children.

DAY 1:

The week began with the FADA Auditorium introduction, followed by group division and the first bus trips to the site. On site we were met by JMPD and the Best Life project co-ordinators.

Students were given a briefing by JMPD and then escorted on the route to St. Mary’s Cathedral.

The students being guided through the sites by the Best Life project co-ordinators

DAY 2:

After arriving on site, the students were divided into elective groups hosted by UJ Architecture Staff members, while the BTech students undertook a facilitated workshop by Dr. Holtmann in order to focus their on-site investigation for the following day.

Dr. Holtmann taking the students through a facilitated workshop
The students from the various elective workshops held by UJ Staff members; Alexander OpperFinzi SaidiLeon KrigeEric Wright & Claudia Morgado.

The rest of the afternoon was spent enjoying a picnic in Johannesburg's Joubert Park.

DAY 3:

With the previous day’s elective’s workshop’s guiding them, the students then focussed in on their specific areas of interest and gathered on site data to begin their intervention proposals.

The purpose of the exposure and facilitation now being focussed around the question of how the students can use their skills as designers to improve the spaces they were tasked to engage with - and present their ideas to the group of stakeholders made up of city officials and academics.

DAY 4:

The students now were allocated time to work in their multi-year groups and produce the necessary documentation and presentation products to express their ideas.


Each group was led by a pair of BTech students who had been guided by Dr. Holtmann’s workshop to lead their younger members towards the outcomes and observations discussed on Day 2.

DAY 5:

The MTech 1 students were asked to critique the groups (A-I) and each group presented for 10 minutes to the student panel. Of these 9 groups, 6 were chosen to present to the stakeholder panel scheduled for the afternoon session and 3 prizes were chosen by the MTech panel:

Most Innovative, Most Creative and Best Presentation.

The student led and critiqued sessions

Kick Bin idea to resolve street litter

Up-Cycling Ideas of inner city gardening

Discussion with Stakeholder panel
Inner City Water Recycling Mechanism

Kid-tropilis - a city wide initative to create signage for children
Graffiti inspired public art around taxi rank

The stakeholder panel; made up of City of Johannesburg officials, academics and welfare staff, were very impressed with the enthusiasm and quality of the student work and their presentation. They called for the work to be taken further and discussed finding a way to present this to the mayor.

Staff members pledged to try and facilitate future engagement with stakeholder panel by aligning their academic programmes to support the work.

The students expressed their interest in taking the work further, possibly in their own capacity, and seemed to enjoy the week’s programme. A working relationship is being established with the stakeholder at the moment.
The Students enjoying the end of week celebration.
At the closure of the presentations a small function was held in the FADA basement parking, where the prizes were awarded and the students completed the week’s event.

A few UJ dance moves to close the week..



The 1to1 team was very taken back by the enthusiasm and quality of work produced in such a short time by the student group. This is a reflection of the previous work done by UJ Architecture academic staff such as the Marlboro South Studio of 2012.

These initiatives are crucial in exposing students not only to spaces and contexts they would not normally make use of, but also to the policy and city structures that effect these spaces. It is only by understanding the the internal factors that dictate planned and unplanned urban conditions that designers can begin to make effective and appropriate solutions.

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