Municipal Institute Of LearningMILE - Municipal Institute Of Learning
Creating and maintaining vibrant and people-centred public spaces
Public spaces are an essential part of any city, and are something that can determine whether a city is being run in an effective way while catering to its citizens. These were some of the points that emerged during the eThekwini Municipality’s 16th Management Seminar on open public spaces.
Environmental stability, safety and a sense of community is just some of the reasons why these spaces are an important part of a city’s wellbeing.
Guest speaker, Architect Doung Anwar Jahangars, revealed that creating modern day public spaces requires innovative thinking that will express the identity of the people and the beauty of the City in which they are in, this is something that Durban and the global south seems to be lacking on a whole. He says in terms of what it is known to offer, Durban lays in a gap between Cape Town and Johannesburg but it is in this gap that development can happen.
“Durban has a magic that nowhere else has and it is not the buildings or the roads but the people, for it is the people in the space that make the place. Durban is in the in between which is a space of magic, a gap that holds the potential for further creativity and ambiguity. It is important to beautify spaces but the process must not be imposed and marginalise people who have claimed the space,” said Doung.
He also mentioned the past transportation system which was a divider between the upper class and working class which prevented the effective use of public spaces leading to deterioration however, conservation emerges from the relationship with the community.
“The transportation network needs to be the constructor of public spaces not the divider, creating the act of curiosity raises interest which can be turned into a dialogue with the people which can be nurtured into a relationship with the community.”
Erky Wood from GAPP Architects and Urban Designers spoke about the design of public spaces, how it is a generator of urban prospect and the social relevance that it has for citizens.
“It is all about how people use the spaces as they have a fundamental value. Buildings are less important than the space as they are more of a backdrop, the culture of public space seems to be people sitting down watching the people walking past who watch the people sitting down. Spaces can’t make the economy or community happen but can enable it to a certain extent as what happens on the edge of the space is important because it forms a symbiotic relationship with what happens in the space,” said Wood.
The seminar sparked much discussion amongst participants and it was agreed that a task team would need to be formed to tackle the issues and strategy to implement in order for quality public spaces to be effectively developed.
View or download the below learning note for the event:

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