urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

DURBANISM

This past week, I travelled with GRIND staff to Durban, South Africa to help launch key elements of the Rivertown Neighborhood revitalization project. Durban is South Africa’s third largest city (after Johannesburg and Cape Town) and boasts long, pristine beaches and a high-density central business district (CBD). Situated just blocks from the beach and right next to the CBD, Rivertown currently houses mostly vacant low-density industrial buildings but possesses immense potential. The area includes short, interesting street blocks and wide sidewalks: an urban flaneur’s dream. GRIND is helping work on three principal projects in the area: (1) an artisan produce market at 8 Morrison Street called “The Morning Trade”; (2) a canal Daylighting project, which also creates a pedestrian street and green space; and (3) the revitalization of an abandoned former beer hall into a new music and community center selling craft beers. In addition to these major projects, GRIND is also commissioning and supporting public art and public space interventions in the neighborhood.

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening.

The Morning Trade under construction before the Sunday market grand opening.

Personally, my work in Durban consisted of making the #GRINDLine, a fluorescent green line connecting different elements of Rivertown. The Morning Trade’s grand opening was Sunday, August 3, and the bulk of my work occurred just before the opening. I enjoyed seeing the construction and final work for the district’s various projects before the opening as I walked slowly on foot creating the line.

The #GRINDLine in its initial stages.

The #GRINDLine in its initial stages.

Visitors to Rivertown using the #GRINDLine.

Visitors to Rivertown using the #GRINDLine.

The #GRINDLine takes visitors and Durbanites to the market, canal zone, and beer hall, and also to murals like this one, commissioned by GRIND.

The #GRINDLine takes visitors and Durbanites to the market, canal zone, and beer hall, and also to murals like this one, commissioned by GRIND.

GRIND’s work extends beyond linking single buildings in the neighborhood and focuses on improving public spaces, like streets and sidewalks, in the neighborhood.  With the district’s close proximity to the beach and the city’s CBD, walkable and bitable streets, street art, and green space will make Rivertown a desirable place to be indeed.  GRIND also created a participatory urbanism exhibition, called Durbanism, at 8 Morrison Street for the market’s opening. The exhibition space includes interactive signs and panels giving local residents the opportunity to shape their community. We were all immensely impressed by the level of participation at the opening event, both with the exhibition and with people using the GRIND Line to walk from area to area.

Re-thinking street use and public space in Durban’s Rivertown neighborhood.

Re-thinking street use and public space in Durban’s Rivertown neighborhood.

Re-thinking street use and public space in Durban’s Rivertown neighborhood.

Re-thinking street use and public space in Durban’s Rivertown neighborhood.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

GRIND’s Durbanism exhibit includes participatory ways for locals to express desires for their neighborhood and region.

I am now back in Johannesburg and have resumed work on my Community Cube project, but very much enjoyed spending this last week in Durban. I was able to see another part of South Africa and learn about urban interventions in a new neighborhood. The first Sunday in Rivertown was a remarkable success; people from all around Durban and South Africa came to enjoy the new space. I was also able to enjoy a warmer climate and spend some time at the beach! Overall, I think the Rivertown revitalization efforts will be extremely successful and I cannot wait to see the changes these efforts bring to the community.

The market on opening day.  The neighborhood revitalization project’s opening day was an immense success!

The market on opening day. The neighborhood revitalization project’s opening day was an immense success!

The market on opening day.  The neighborhood revitalization project’s opening day was an immense success!

The market on opening day. The neighborhood revitalization project’s opening day was an immense success!

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2 responses to “DURBANISM

  1. atomasso August 4, 2014 at 7:28 am

    lots of overlap with PPS’s work! congrats on a successful opening!

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