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Home » October 2012

Support from Urban LandMark sees launch of publication on the South African Informal City (SAIC)

Funding support from Urban LandMark and SA Cities Network critical in ensuring that work from SAIC project reaches broader audience through book publication

The South African Informal City (SAIC) Exhibition, an initiative of the Architects' Collective, was started in 2011 with the support of the Johannesburg Development Agency, National Treasury's Neighbourhood Development Programme, the South African Cities Network and the National Research Foundation Chair in Development Planning and Modelling. The objective was to open up dialogue around the critical issues of informality and urban development, to further cooperation, information sharing and positive action between policy-makers, built-environment professionals and the public.

Towards the end of 2011, the Architects' Collective hosted the SAIC exhibition in Newtown. The event showcased innovative design and research projects in South Africa around urban informality, and was one of the technical site visits offered at COP17. The exhibition was accompanied by a one-day seminar exploring the opportunities and challenges around informality. The project has since been expanded by publishing the exhibition content and seminar outcomes, and launching the publication The South African Informal City at the Planning Africa Conference in September 2012.

The aim of the book, published with funding support from Urban LandMark and the SA Cities Network, is to open up dialogue and discussion around the critical issues of informality and urban development, in order to further cooperation, information sharing and positive action between policy-makers, built environment professionals and the public.

According to Urban LandMark's Mark Napier, the SAIC initiative aims to focus greater attention on the informal city, which is in line with Urban LandMark's broad objectives around better access to urban spaces for poorer people.

"In the rapidly urbanising cities of South and southern Africa, access to space is a matter of survival. The means of access is the informal market, as commodities available on the formal, registered market are largely unaffordable", Mark points out.

"As a contributor to one part of the original exhibition and the seminar, we have come to appreciate how important it is to mobilise design professionals around the challenges faced.

"Architects, urban designers, planners and engineers have the capacity to innovate and to learn from how people themselves innovate in meeting their own shelter and space needs in situations of poverty and informality.

"This is important because the informal sub-market in space for living and working is vibrant, complex and in many cases quite vulnerable", Mark emphasises.

"Our funding support enabled the SAIC project to reach a broader audience, sustain the momentum of this critical debate and allow the project to become part of greater academic, professional and public knowledge", says Mark.

Geci Karuri-Sebina of the South African Cities Network, one of the SAIC partners and co-funder of the publication, says, "The success of South Africa's cities will require an enhanced capacity for policy-makers, planners, built environment professionals and the supporting knowledge infrastructure to engage constructively with the reality of informality in enabling productive and inclusive cities".

For more information or to order 'The South African Informal City' book, please contact Karen Eicker, or visit Urban LandMark's newsroom.