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A talk with Quentin Owen about the design of our city spaces, held by ADIPSA at UCT in Cape Tow

We focus on the Design of Cities within post-apartheid South Africa.

This talk is about the design of our city spaces, and how space gives out meaning.

This is very important for the development of our new Cultural landscape in South Africa.

 At present, western design and modern development have seized control of cities.

Cities and their design, are focused on the most privileged within society. Design is limited to western knowledge and architecture.

This may not be the best for the people of South Africa.

Colonialism divided up city spaces according to race and because of the past privilege that was associated with race.

People from Africa that moved into western spaces become super-imposed onto western backgrounds and no longer able to function properly.

 The city as it stands is not sustainable :

Quentin believes that we need to create new conversations around the use of space in South Africa

This will bring a real  focus on adding new voices and new designs into our current working portfolio.

Looking at the city as it exists is limiting, and the repetition of 400 years of standard design has lead us to believe that only western options exist.

Looking at new possibilities and marginalised designs has become critical.

What does private space mean in our community, and how is it used to divide or align people? 

If we focus on what belongs to us, and protecting this, instead of creating a sense of community, where does that leave us as social beings, How will this end?

Hierarchies of knowledge mean that most people don’t know what makes space feel safe, or how to create community spaces rather than isolated living.

Choices of design are not open to anybody but the architect or city planner.

Communities are often not aware of the options

Creating space around people in our communities who are vulnerable, disabled, children, means that all people can enjoy the space.

Eco Village South Africa Perspective Sketch Design

The importance of nature in the lives of people :

The real need of social and community development through the use of public open space. For physical interactions and as a stress reliever,

The Parks which charge for access, or the lack of adequate water facilities in public parks as well as the continuous taking away of public spaces for development; all prevent all people from enjoying the city.

There is a real sense of imprisonment and isolation which comes from being separated from nature or green public spaces.
We are hidden behind high walls or marginalized from space because of the current city design. 

This condition is particularly a problem for the middle class and the city’s poor.

The role of development and developers :

If developers, planners and architects do not learn social knowledge, then space is often not designed around people, but around the city as it already exists.

For example: City Spaces which are arranged for drivers of cars mean that people who do not drive are isolated from a great many public spaces.

Those that control the capital are able to dictate the outcome of a project.  This would then require more public participation and engagement.


Eco Village Design of Accommodation for a College in South Africa

The power of the environment over people:

It is common knowledge that Small spaces and cramped living conditions have  a relationship to crime and violence.

We need to recognise the environmental influences in social concerns and take appropriate action. Rather than blaming these conditions on groups of people.

These environmental living circumstances need to be protested and changed if we are to create transformation within our society. 

Quentin believes that it is only through increasing our awareness of the rules and circumstances which dominate our spaces, are we able to bring about transformation. 

The need to ‘go viral’ or raise consciousness around the circumstances which exist at present. In order to create future equality and better living for all people.

Thank you to those who attended this interesting talk, and for the continued feedback received

Director: Quentin Owen

Uk / Contact : Nathan Gorman

Artist/Media : Barbra Cowley

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