The Changing Role of Traditional Urban Space in South Africa's Cities: A Case Study of Urban Space Connectors in Four South African Cities

By Gavin McLachlan.

Published by The International Journal of the Constructed Environment

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: June 4, 2014 $US5.00

Together, information communication technology (ICT) and access to transportation mobility provide the connecting network for communities of the relatively wealthy, who often choose to live in a dispersed urban region. In South Africa, however, where the recently urbanized only have limited access to ICTs and independent transport, traditional urban space is still the networking mechanism that the poor need. In South Africa, this co-existence has led to both creative vitality as well as conflict in the use of urban space. Resolving this dichotomy has important implications for South Africa's cities. Important inner-city urban spaces were identified in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage, Cradock, and Grahamstown. Activities were monitored over a twenty-four hour cycle and analyzed by type, duration, intensity, and spatial impact. Points of conflict and coherence were identified. The main findings of the study include the vital importance of traditional urban space for the poor for whom it provides an important resource for trade, the heavy demands that their intensity of use puts on the material fabric of the space, and their need for space that unlocks opportunity. This intense vitality in the use of urban space is often perceived as hostile by the relatively wealthy. The implication of the study for South African cities is the vital importance of maintaining compact, traditional urban space as a key urban resource for the poor, and managing this resource effectively.

Keywords: Social Impact, Spatial Cultures, Urban Opportunities

The International Journal of the Constructed Environment, Volume 4, Issue 4, October 2014, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: June 4, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.012MB)).

Prof. Gavin McLachlan

Professor Director of School, School of Architecture, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, South Africa