BREAKING down the memorials of apartheid through spatial integration in the city was a challenge the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects had been grappling with for some time, the institute's president Tim Hewitt- Coleman said yesterday.
Speaking on the final day of the three-day Urban Assembly congress, Hewitt-Coleman said the catalyst for the Urban Assembly had been the deep divide between the well-serviced and poorly serviced areas of Nelson Mandela Bay, and whether something could be done about the "hopelessness in the city".
The congress was attended by industry professionals and academics from across the country. On behalf of the ECIA, Hewitt- Coleman proposed a motion for effective collaboration between public sector agencies, higher-learning institutions and commercial architects to achieve urban spatial transformation in the Bay.
"Some of the brightest minds in architecture are involved in commercial ventures only. A significant obstacle is that we operate in silos despite having the skills in public and private sectors to create urban spatial transformation.
"The greatest need for urban spatial transformation since World War 2 is in cities here in post-apartheid SA," Hewitt-Coleman said.
Cape Town architect and academic Professor Henri Comrie suggested delegates take on a "charrette culture" in order to break down the divide between the silos.
"I work hard to convince my clients to invest in these charrettes [an intense period of planning]. It involves all the role players involved in the urban design to collaboratively give input around the process and projects," Comrie said.
He said the value system of architecture had changed into some architects becoming "commercial salesmen, who sell buildings as commodities".
However, a few architects had the skills to inspire change in their cities. Comrie said not all architects were urban designers at heart but they were able to influence city projects, to act as "bid players but not to control projects".
Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) chief executive Pierre Voges said there was a huge gap between the three sectors and the MBDA played a small role in bridging that gap. "Architecture and design can change society. It is a creative tool for economic growth. Collaboration between the public, private and academic sectors is happening in small pockets in our city, but not to the extent that it should be," Voges said.
Chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership, Andrew Boraine, said he supported the ECIA motion and told Bay delegates that they were not alone in experiencing a complete breakdown between the silos. "Development is messy and complex, but exciting at the same time. Collaboration is needed to drive change. Partnerships need to be sustained through a system of shared values."