MARABASTAD - URBAN DESIGN
Community involvement as a process of developing an Urban Design Framework produced a promising future for Marabastad.
In the history of Pretoria, Marabastad has suffered neglect, evictions, administrative apathy and fell victim to laws and policies of racial segregation. Initially an informal settlement, it became a dense urban grid and evolved as a multi-racial, mixed-use environment housing a multi-cultural and multi-religious community.
In 1997, the newly constituted democratic city administration of Pretoria commissioned the Integrated Urban Design Framework for Marabastad and in collaboration with Aziz Tayob Architects, Co-Arc International began the project with great concern for process and community involvement.
Initially, the project and process of involvement was met with hostility, but in time, through understanding and the emerging history of the community, their needs and hopes became clear. Land rights, infrastructure and halting the decline of the area were paramount to the inhabitants. Through extensive site mapping and investigations and gaining an understanding of the context, Co-Arc developed the Integrated Urban Design Framework for Marabastad, which ultimately dealt more with process than architecture. Urban design was not approached as spatial design aimed at effecting change, but as the facilitation of generative processes that would make the spatial outcome a physical manifestation of the lives and aspirations of the community.
Co-Arc understood that the professional's role in this complex context was to facilitate, advise and co-ordinate, and to understand. The resultant product is a flexible and adaptable guiding framework that serves to unlock the potential of the community and the place. As a consequence, the urban design drawings are presented as scenarios for the evolution of Marabastad in the short to medium term, while the implementation plan deals as much with political, administrative and management processes as with concrete spatial interventions.
Proposals for land rights restitution as the key redevelopment driver were implemented, however, actual redevelopment became subject to a moratorium for 12 years. During this time the city has formalised the rezoning and intervened with improved management to halt the land invasions, but has spent relatively little public capital on physical upgrades. Thus urban decay has been ongoing and, though now legally poised for unhindered development, Marabastad today finds itself, as always, on the back foot.