The Union of International Architects is coming to Durban in August and it’ll see the CBD coming alive with a ton of artistic and architectural projects. Here’s what we’re in for.

Ferran Adria, the philosopher of cuisine once wrote, ‘’Cooking, like architecture, manifests itself in the building. The cook, like the architect, draws on an infinite array of creative resources, which make it possible to create wonders from basic construction materials. But even using the finest marbles or the best caviar, success is not guaranteed. Architecture, like cooking, evolves and lasts in the form of memories, tastes, and temperatures‘’. So yeah, there’s more to architecture than just “Look at that pretty building.”

In 2009 Durban won the bid to host the biggest ever architecture congress in the world, The Union of International Architects (UIA). Described as the ‘’world cup of architecture’’ by the Commissary General, Karen Eicker, the UIA is a triennial world rotating conference, last held in Tokyo 2011 and this year, Durban, with Seoul hosting it in 2017. We’re right slap-bang in the middle of two of Asia’s biggest cities.

The UIA Durban 2014 Congress takes place 3rd to 7th August 2014 at the International Convention Centre (ICC) and is expected to attract about 6 000 delegates from around the globe with a strong local contingent in attendance. Architects, designers, urban planners and place makers will convene at the ICC over a weeks long discourse on the theme, ‘’Architecture Otherwhere’’.
The sub themes – Resilience, Ecology and Values – are the topics under scrutiny. The UIA has called upon the minds that envisaged the Japan skyscrapers; has beckoned the minds that planned the Mediterranean cities as well as the visionaries who redefined the discipline of Architecture in West Africa, South America and India.

Now the really cool bit: The UIA Congress is a multi-faceted experience with the principal event (Scientific Program) hosted at the ICC, this is complemented by an extensive Cultural Program that will blanket the entire CBD. The Walnut Road closure will see the construction of an ‘’urban jungle’’, this transformation will include 2000 two–metre-height trees erected on the street closure. Amidst this jungle will be street exhibitions, a ‘’pop up cinema’’ topped off with a Wi-Fi hotspot.

The Durban Exhibition Centre (DEC) will house the expo, which will also be open to the public. There’ll be exhibitions and stalls and various other draw cards too.

They want to expand the scope of the UIA 2014 Congress whilst showcasing South African talent to a local and international audience. These projects will take place all over the city, like at DEC, the city centre, beachfront, galleries and “otherwhere” venues around Durban. Some of the venues are being kept a secret and will be announced via social media so get UIA2014 in your newsfeed, so follow UIA2014 on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

This parallel program is said to be a matrix of 100 projects from architects, designers and artists from around the globe including Costa Rica, Germany, France, Taiwan, USA and Rwanda. What a treat. These programs will be spread across the mentioned venues in the city and open to the public. Shannon Moffett, the Cultural Manager highlights some of the innovative exhibitions:
“In_Through uShintsho: A creative collaboration between the Wits School of the Arts, the School of Architecture and Planning; and the French light artist Chia-Wen Tsai, will see a light-water-sound installation in a prominent public swimming pool in Durban. The installation is expected to have a tensile structure with ‘sails’ onto which ‘live’ water reflections will be projected during the performance, creating reflections thanks to the interaction created between light and water waves and caught by the moving panels.
Box Project: Across the world various city beautification projects have been carried out, turning everyday urban landmarks into pieces of art; splashes of colour amongst the greys of the city. In the lead up to, and during the UIA2014 in Durban, 30 electricity boxes, functional elements of the city’s landscape, will be turned into pieces of art. Multiple artists will work to transform the mundane into something unique, creating beauty in line with our city identity. Still at proposal stage
“Candy Chang”: an initiative inspired by the works of Taiwanese American Artist, Candy Chang. Chang is interested in the relationship between public space and personal well-being. Combining urban planning, street art, and design, she has sought more contemplative and inclusive ways to reflect and share with the people around her. Students from UKZN and DUT will be installing a number of Candy Chang initiatives at their campuses and around the city. Still at proposal stage
Durbanity: This project will see five student and five professional photographers from the Durban Centre for Photography (DCP) embark on a five-month-long project to create a ‘visual audit’ of Durban. This entails the photographic documentation of various aspects of the city and its peripheries to better understand the dynamics of contemporary urbanization patterns and emerging urban cultures. The outcomes of this project will be presented in an exhibition, a cine-concert in collaboration with IFAS followed by a publication of a book.
Heritage and exercise pocket parks: This project consists of the conversion of two neglected grass verges into ‘pocket parks’ for the general public. One of these pocket parks will include a vegetable garden, medicinal plants as well as indigenous ones. Recycled outdoor furniture, hammocks and ‘brollies’ will be placed in the park during the day allowing the public to meet, relax and socialize in a green street park. The other, will house an outdoor exercise circuit constructed from recycled and natural products such as tyres, wooden poles and tree stumps. Still at proposal stage.
‘ih-murj’:  a photographic body of work that investigates plant life in urban areas. Based in Durban, this project documents the emerging plant life in an urban environment and how these natural structures interact with urban structures. The project aims to reach into the consciousness of urban dwellers and increase awareness of the often -rich natural biospheres that exist in an urban jungle. This exhibition will be placed in a public space within the city centre, allowing everyone to view the exhibition.
Retroactive: This public art intervention has consisted of the painting of 100 circular concrete pavement storm water drain covers in the city centre. The content of the hand painted covers are landscape “portraits” that depict indigenous/ traditional dwellings of significant South African national people. Durbanites have been encouraged to experience the actual painting of the storm water covers as a kind of performance art while artists worked ‘in situ’ on the pavement, allowing dialogue between the artists and the curious public. Delegates will be able to visit these paintings in the city centre, and will also be able to visit and exhibition of these works at the KZNSA during the congress.”

Another strong component to the UIA2014 agenda is the Student Congress Committee which consists of architecture students from UKZN and DUT. The student committee has also curated a fully-fledged programme, backed by yet another parallel program amongst which is the Pecha Kucha, African Architecture Film Festival and the legendary ArchiBall. There is also an international student debate planned in the main arena.

Sam Rouche, the program coordinator, excitedly mentions, “The Student Programme comprises of six scientific events, which will run parallel to those of the professional programme.
Beyond these events, the student programme extends into the city itself in order to challenge ideas of forgotten spaces and uplift those areas and their communities needing a change of mind. City initiatives include the Student Pocket Parks, the Candy Chang initiative and Markets of Warwick Tours.”

Get a taster from the UIA 2014 Vimeo channel which is a series of place-makers and architects talking about Durban and its knack for creativity.


Experience Durban with Doung from UIA2014 Durban on Vimeo.
Evidently, the organising team is vigorously curating what will be the biggest conference on architecture, ever. During this time, Durbanites will have a fully- fledged entertainment schedule for the week which will be available on the website.

Many of these projects are free of charge and all events are set to be packed out. The Commissary General, Karen Eicker mentions “While it is impossible to put a value to the work that has been done on this Congress, we estimate that just the value of voluntary work will equate to over R10 million by the time the Congress finishes”.

As the 3rd August approaches, we look forward to seeing what the “re-imagined” Durban will bring to its citizens. Get in touch and keep updated via their social network platforms;

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