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Friday Feb 08, 2013

Students plan to redesign part of Joburg's inner city

The City of Joburg is soliciting architecture students from the University of Johannesburg to find a solution to transform a part of the inner city between the Drill Hall and St Mary's Cathedral.

University of Johannesburg architecture students visited St Mary's Cathedral in the CBD as part of an innovative project to restore a section of the inner city.

In an innovative pilot project called the Best Life/City Clean Sweep initiative, Johannesburg Child Welfare (JCW) and the city's development planning and urban management department are leading the project in Region F (inner city) to address the problems in the route between the two buildings, to create clean and safe spaces that will enable these historically significant sites to become flagships of the inner city.

About 230 students, between first and fourth years of study, were hosted at JCW's Thembalethu drop-in centre this week. Child Welfare provides skills development and train-

Ting programmes to women resident in the inner city, and hosts between 40 and 60 children from local inner-city schools on a daily basis, offering them sports and creative after-school activities and supervision.

Facilitator Emma Holtmann said the students had spent three days walking the route, making their observations and speaking to hawkers, residents, taxi drivers and pedestrians to get their views of what they would like to see.

St Mary's Cathedral was the first church in South Africa to appoint a black dean, Desmond Tutu, in 1976.

The cathedral was a haven for anti-apartheid activists during the Struggle years, but in recent years has become a nogo area because of litter, illegal trading and a general lack of by-law enforcement.

"Both JCW and St Mary's are caring organisations offering valuable social support services in a harsh environment. Both sites are currently burdened with problems of waste, urine-stained boundaries and streets, chaotic traffic congestion, inadequate pavements for pedestrians, lawlessness and vulnerability to crime and other threats," Holtmann said.

The students will take their research back to their design studios, and six of the best ideas will be presented to the council, Child Welfare, the dean of St Mary's and any other interested parties.

"The panel will then consider ways to make these ideas a reality as part of the initiative as seeds for potential implementation in the transformation process that will unfold in the coming year," she said.

The UJ/JCW/City of Joburg partnership will deepen over the next few months as students are invited to participate in forum meetings set up to implement action plans for the transformation in the area.

The dean of St Mary's, Charles May, said he welcomed the initiative. For years, he said, the church has been battling with urban decay and safety issues around its perimeter.

"The church was instrumental in fighting apartheid, yet it is the one that is suffering post-apartheid. We need to restore it to its former glory and dignity," he said.

Fourth-year architecture student Lance Hohip said he had seen and learnt a lot during their walk-abouts.

"We have seen lots of litter and trash around the streets and we have seen how it is affecting people living and trading in this area," he said.

The Star

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