The Eastern Cape Institute of Architecture (ECIA) on Tuesday announced its programme for an inaugural “Urban Assembly” of Nelson Mandela Bay-based professionals, students and the public, flush with a line-up of some of the industry’s top names and a menu of events that aim to profile the profession as key to shaping the cities of the future.
The conference is strategically geared to debate the crisis of urban degeneration and dislocation, Tim Hewitt-Coleman, ECIA chair, said.
“We need to talk about reshaping the cities of our future. Close to 20 years into democracy, and we still cannot escape the labels of town and township – this is really a crisis, together with inner-city crime and grime, and made worse by sub-urban sprawl. What is perplexing about this crisis is that we are not living in a place where we don’t have the skills and capacity in three sectors: private, public and academic. The aim of the conference is to reimagine and re-vision the relationships between these three sectors so that the leadership and direction can begin to inform future development.”
Some of the main speakers at the three-day event include cutting-edge architects, space makers, public art gurus, urban shapers – and even a design and fashion fundi, organisers said today. The conference concept is the brainchild of ECIA board member, Debbie Wintermeyer, and grew out what is usually the ECIA’s annual awards evening into the urban assembly after the ECIA decided a high impact conversation and industry engagement was needed to “chart the way in a changing urbanscape”.
“Architecture has been given a major boost in Nelson Mandela Bay through the Mandela Bay Development Agency’s urban renewal investments and growth at the Coega Industrial Development Zone, amongst other developments locally and provincially,” said Hewitt-Coleman.
“As architects we are not only central to shaping these kinds of developments, but we also need to comment on the impact they are having on communities and the environment. Architecture is an act of culture as much as one of design and as we conceptualise cities of the future, we need to reflect on the new trends and how they can be applied to particularly Eastern Cape cities and contexts so the public can re-engage with the space they live in, spaces that have been designed specifically for them.”
The conference will also sketch the local architecture industry through a “know your architect” campaign geared to profile architects making a “profound and lasting impact on the spaces we live in,” said Hewitt-Coleman.
A number of events – including the annual awards – are planned between October 14 and 16 together with a major exhibition of student and professional work. The first day focuses on youth education and features a youth programme and architecture educational open to the public and schools. On the evening of October 14, the ECIA’s Amazing Architecture Race, a charity fundraiser, takes place.
Day two highlights university students’ work and focuses on industry development at university level and includes the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) sponsored Milde McWilliams Memorial Lecture, which traditionally sees a leading South African architect take to the podium. The speaker will be announced closer to the conference, organisers said.
The final day features a series of speakers and debates on the future of the profession in the Eastern Cape context, with fashion entrepreneur, trends guru and media personality Craig Jacobs set to give the keynote address on trend-setting and making a difference. The ECIA awards also take place on this day, acknowledging major architectural and design achievements across the Eastern Cape for the past year.
Other speakers include Cape Town-based architect and urban designer Henri Comrie, Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) chief executive Pierre Voges, Johannesburg Development Agency head Thanduxolo Mendrew, chief executive of the Cape Town Partnership Andrew Boraine, NMMU School of Architecture director Prof Gavin McLachlan, architect Roger Fischer, and others.
Amongst the topics of discussion are debates on sprawl and low density mono-cultures; apartheid spatial planning; urban renewal and decay; the role of public spaces and art; heritage buildings and cultural tourism; and landscape, green spaces and gardens’ contribution to the renewal of cities.
“We encourage architecture firms, students and the public to come participate in this event and learn to know the architects of your city. We are driven by the desire to create interesting spaces in which people live, work and play – and for this we need participation and communication from the community who actively engage with these spaces,” added Hewitt-Coleman.
The Urban Assembly is sponsored by PCC Cement, Safintra Roofing and Steel, and the MBDA. The ECIA’s 2013 Urban Assembly and awards takes place between October 14 and 16 at the Port Elizabeth Opera House from 9am each day. Adult tickets are R300 for the duration of the conference and student tickets are R100. Some events are closed to the public.