A New Placemaking Agenda for African Cities

June 21, 2021

Read the magazine A New Placemaking Agenda for Africa here.

This session moves to re-think and re-interrogate the notion of place-making. By re-grounding our understanding of what it means to make place in real world, organic lived experiences, Rashiq Fataar of Our Future Cities hosts a session that reframes placemaking and moves towards constructing a New Placemaking Agenda inspired by the stories of African cities.

Monique Marks of the Urban Futures Centre at the Durban University of Technology shared insights into what placemaking for the marginalized could and should look like through her experiences at the Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre, which works to provide opioid substitution therapy to the city’s drug using population. She highlighted the importance of creating spaces of dignity and engaging meaningfully with a group of diverse stakeholders.

Stephanie Briers, an architect and PhD candidate at ETH in Zurich shared powerful insights from her work in public space in informal settlements. She emphasized that the particular power of lighting in these public spaces is that it doesn’t govern what a place should be, and instead creates opportunities for ownership, appropriation and self-determination within the community.

Franklin Kirimi of the Kounkuey Design Initiative spoke about a project run by this organization in Kibera, Nairobi that saw a dumping site transform into a multifunctional, community-led public space. The commitment to co-design and growing community involvement and ownership throughout the project was a clear factor in the level of sustainable and wide-reaching impact that this project was able to achieve.

Malaika Toyo of Made Culture spoke of art and festivals as a means to engage with the community and galvanize social action. She expressed the importance of understanding placemaking actions and interventions as prototypes or pilots, and prioritizing continued experimentation. She also proposed a shift in focus away from design-based interventions and towards interaction based interventions.

Panelists and participants together collaborated on putting together a New Placemaking Agenda, which included ideas like understanding placemaking as transient, and the importance of users performing the role of overseers and providers in their public spaces.

Host: Our Future Cities (OFC), with session moderation by Rashiq Fataar

Speakers: Monique Marks (Professor, Urban Futures Centre) – Durban, South Africa, Malaika Toyo (Principal Director, Made Culture) – Lagos, Nigeria, Franklin Kirimi (Landscape Design Coordinator, Kounkuey Design Initiative) – Kenya & Stephanie Briers (Chair of Sociology, Institute of Science, Technology and Policy) – Zürich, Switzerland Africa-wide

Alternative drivers of placemaking in African cities: How social action, activations, community participation and events improve the public realm  

Placemaking is integral to ensure the quality of life of residents and to create a public realm that supports both formal and informal activities, needs and expressions. This session aims to explore various ways in which public spaces have been transformed, indirectly, through other means rather than an urban planning or urban design intervention. We intend to showcase examples where placemaking is the outcome, both unplanned or spontaneous (even surprising). We also hope to learn from these projects where placemaking is the outcome of an activation, built process, active community participation, or event, rather than a by-product of technical intervention. Our goal is to celebrate place-makers and public space champions working across the African continent through various lenses and processes. Through reflecting on each project, most of which are at the community scale, we hope to provoke similar action that could be applied be in different contexts. These stories provide hope for future creative idea generation around more effective public space provision and placemaking while allowing placemaking to be embedded more authentically into city life and city building.

Rashiq Fataar
Rouen Smit
37 Parliament Street
Church Square
Cape Town City Centre
Cape Town, 8000
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