Looking through the wire!
When I think of a liveable city I think of a city for the residents, that is to say one designed with its residents in mind. Well designed cities promote interaction through discoverability and feedback.
For social interaction to thrive and integration to become a possibility, it is crucial to create common spaces of play where all feel welcome to participate.
Maboneng precinct in downtown Jozi, offers the sort of cultural vibration that many of us crave. You can’t help but feel a sense of creative energy and inspiration when art, food and beauty is all around you. But I often wonder if this space is being used to its full potential. Does design in the area encourage interaction among fellow residents? I’m not convinced it does. For one, although the space encourages walking, thereby creating an opportunity to see & interact with others, it’s also very possible for the entire experience to become a silo as you stick to your own tribe.
We need to create more spaces which naturally allow for conversations and engagement from residents above and beyond curated events which can often end up elitist and exclusive. We need more free space for residents to sit, read & draw. We need more open collaborative spaces for residents to share their art and spaces where strangers have an opportunity to engage with art and culture....and each other.
As much as I adore Maboneng, I still do not fully see it as a completely inclusive space to live, create and collaborate where literally every citizen can opt in. At times I feel like it was created exclusively for hipsters on the margin, the avant garde and the cool kid wanna-be, with everyone else looking through the wire. The common South African cannot afford to spend R40 on a refreshing smoothy as they await their R160 tiny tapas and glorious spanish pies. They probably also can’t afford a ticket for a show at the Popart theatre or a screening at the Bioscope. So you end up with the same issue where, despite this amazing space being perhaps physically accessible to people in terms of geography, it is just as exclusionary to those who lack financial freedom. Until all people have a shot at real financial and economic freedom, integration will remain but a dream with all invited to the party, a few enjoying the party and the rest looking through the wire.