DURBAN is set for a makeover in time for the 25th World Congress of the International Union of Architects (UIA), which it will host from 3 to 7 August this year.
A number of entities, including the City’s architecture department, are coming together over the period of the Congress to create projects that will bring life and energy back into the inner-city and show what is possible.
UIA 2014 will be used as a launch pad for three urban regeneration projects which are starting to gain traction in the lead-up to the event. Each one focuses on stimulating interest in the built environment sector and focus on Durban’s inner city.
Nina Saunders, project co-ordinator for the Spatial Legacy projects, said the projects would include the activation of a section of Pixley Ka Seme Street (formerly West).
The city’s Inner City Renewal Team will activate step one of the project vision for a pedestrian priority zone along Dr Pixely ka Seme Street in time for the Congress.
Called Dr Pixley Ka Seme Linear Park, a section of the road is to be greened and repurposed to reduce the number of traffic lanes and increase the sidewalk space between Stalwart Simelane (Stanger) and Sylvester Ntuli (Brickhill) Streets. The road lanes will be cut down from four to two, and will create space for street furniture and decorative lighting.
The second project will be the activation of the Rivertown precinct, which provides an opportunity for regeneration in the inner city. Arts and culture initiatives and exhibitions will be run during the Congress to show the opportunities that exist for bringing investment, sustainability and vibrancy back to the area.
Formerly Durban’s light industrial area, the Rivertown precinct lies to the east of the Durban CBD. A canal, currently enclosed, traverses this area and water from areas that were formerly the wetlands in the City Bowl, drains into the Canal and is dispersed into the harbour at Cato Creek.
The currently derelict area provides an opportunity for regeneration, to draw interest back to Durban’s CBD.
The UIA Heritage and Responsible Architecture Work Programmes have launched a student competition calling for urban design proposals for a rejuvenated precinct.
The final project is the development of Pocket Parks. These projects aim to bring nature and delight back to the city, providing a place for relaxation, play areas for children and small spaces for activities, events or street cafes, where people can socialise.
An educational component involves the introduction of indigenous, edible and medicinal plants into the Pocket Parks or Vest Parks. These small splashes of green could be tucked away between buildings, or scattered anywhere, even travelling through the urban fabric.
A number of Pocket Parks in Durban and surrounding areas are being planned around the UIA2014 World Congress.
“Architectural legacy projects stemming from UIA 2014 Durban provide a glimpse of the enormous potential for investment in carefully crafted urban initiatives in eThekwini, which have a positive impact on lives and livelihoods. Architects are fulfilling their responsibility to create the environment for further success,” said Jonathan Edkins, Deputy Head: City Architects at eThekwini Municipality.
The city says the government and private sector will invest R150m in the upgrades before and from the conference, as it is envisaged the event will generate about R400m economically.
Approximately 5000 delegates are expected to attend the Congress to be held at the International Convention Centre Durban (ICC).
The Congress will bring together architects, design and built environment professionals, pioneers in urban planning and thinking, activists, city makers, academics and researchers, students, government officials, decision makers and thought leaders, citizens and communities – to debate and discuss alternative strategies for the design and delivery of more habitable, functional and beautiful cities.
The impressive clutch of high-profile speakers, all leaders in their respective fields, will lead a series of keynote panel debates and academic discussions, as well as present keynote addresses. The line-up includes renowned international personalities, as well as local specialists and professionals.