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Faces of the City Seminars

The Faces of the City seminar series is run jointly between CUBES, the Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO), the NRF Chair in Spatial Analysis and City Planning, and the Wits City Institute.

Faces of the City

About Faces of the City 

South African cities in the 21st century are characterised by rapid change. Johannesburg is perhaps the quintessential example of this, although urban transformation is a much wider phenomenon. Empty and edge spaces are quickly filled by property developers and investors; city centres are re-imagined as ‘improvement districts’; over-burdened transport networks become possible means of overcoming apartheid geography; once disparate cities and towns merge into sprawling metropolises without visible boundaries.

The Faces of the City seminar series seeks to engage practitioners and academics to unpack these and other urban transformations, and their implications for the future, from a variety of perspectives; and to bring various viewpoints and disciplines into conversation as we examine the different faces of the contemporary South African city. The series will include some site visits and site-specific panel discussions on various urban areas in and around Gauteng, as well as continuing to produce formal papers for publication.

Should you wish to join the Faces of the City mailing list to be informed about upcoming seminars, please send an email to Thammy Jezile, Project Administrator (Urban Resilience Project), School of Architecture and Planning: or contact her on +27 11 717 7678.

In 2016 the Faces of the City seminar series resumed - see FOTC 2016 First Quarter Programme for the first quarter schedule. Details to follow on the second quarter programme.

Past Seminars


22 March - Alexandre Apsan Frediani (Development Planning Unit, UCL), Beatrice De Carli (Universty of Sheffield), Benedito Roberto Barbosa, Francisco de Assis Comarú, Ricardo de Sousa Moretti (Universidade Federal do ABC) gave a presentation entitled "A Pedagogy of Confrontation: Reclaiming urban regeneration in inner São Paulo".

15 March - Prof Fana Sihlongonyane (SoAP, Wits) gave a presentation entitled “The Interpellation of Celebrity Diplomacy in the Urban Development of Johannesburg: The Case of Newtown".

8 March - Prof Martin Murray (University of Michigan) gave a presentation entitled “Trajectories of Global Urbanism at the Start of the 21st Century: the Delicate Balance between Tourist-Entertainment Cities; Shrinking Cities in Decline; Instant Cities, and Mega-cities of Hyper-growth”.

1 March - Prof Anne Pitcher (University of Michigan) gave a presentation entitled "My Dream, My House":  Are Middle Class Residents Satisfied with Government Housing Provision in Post-war Angola?”. 

23 February - Kelvin Campbell (SMART URBANISM) gave a presentation entitled “Making Massive Small Change - open, responsive and collaborative urbanism in a complex world” - view the Poster for Kelvin Campbell seminar.


8 October - Carlton Reid (BikeBiz) gave a presentation entitled "Roads were not built for cars: How cyclists were the first to push for good roads and became the pioneers of motoring".

29 September - Presentation by Emaculate Ingwani (University of Venda) on "Land transactions in peri-urban communal areas of Zimbabwe: the structure-agency interactions" and presentation by Dr Hloniphile Simelane (Planact) on "Urban Land Management and its Discontents: a case study of the Swaziland Urban Development Project (SUDP)".

22 September - Prof Noëleen Murray of the Wits City Institute shared a presentation on "Thinking through architectures of failure: modern architectures' dark side?"

15 September - Presentation by Hannah Dawson (PhD Candidate, Oxford University) entitled "Navigating economic uncertainty on the urban periphery: Economic strategies, household arrangements and social differentiation in Zandspruit informal settlement".

25 August - Prof Ivan Turok (Acting Executive Director, Human Sciences Research Council) shared a presentation on "Myths and realities of informal urbanisation: the role of informal settlements and backyard shacks."

18 August - Panel discussion on South Africa’s urban agenda and its relationship to urban research with Prof Marie Huchzermeyer, Prof Edgar Pieterse and Prof Philip Harrison. Other participants included: Prof Alan Mabin, Prof Noëleen Murray, Prof Sophie Oldfield, Prof Monique Marks and Dr Kira Erwin. Read more about the event.

11 August - Presentation by Prof Javier Auyero (University of Texas-Austin) on "The Practical Logic of Patronage Politics in the Urban Periphery".

19 May - Presentation by Hayley Gewer, Margot Rubin and Jennifer van der Bussche entitled "Governance structures of a basement space in Hillbrow: Investigating regulation livelihoods and agency". 

12 May - Presentation by Giovanni Allegretti titled "Building the Right to the City through Multigoals Tool of Citizens’ Participation: The Contribution of Participatory Budgeting".

5 May - Faces of the City and WiSER collaboration on "The Johannesburg Conundrum: Key Dimensions of the Materialities of Delivering Infrastructure" with presentations by Herman Pienaar (City of Johannesburg), Mike Muller (Wits School of Governance) and Martin Murray (University of Michigan).

28 April - Presentation by Dr Christopher McMichael (Wits) entitled "'I will show you who is Radovan’: Crime, Capitalist Realism and Celebrity in Johannesburg". 

23 April - Launch of South African Research Chair in Spatial Analysis & City Planning as well as a report on Transport and Urban Development. 

21 April - Discussion on densifying Joburg with Miriam Maina, Dylan Weakley and Constanza La Mantia (SARChI, Wits).

15 April - Launch of CUBES research report on street trading management, with Claire Bénit-Gbaffou (CUBES, author of the report), Edmund Elias (SANTRA), Graeme Gotz (GCRO), Prof Philip Harrison (SARChI, Wits), Ryan Matthews (UGM), Phumulani Ndlovu (SAITF) and Lauren Royston (SERI).

24 March - Presentation by Claudia Gastrow (postdoctoral student, Anthropology, Wits) entitled "The Roots of Reconstruction and the Afterlife of Socialism in Luanda, Angola" - view the seminar poster.

17 March - Presentation by Astrid Ley and Antje Stokman (University of Stuttgart) entitled "Kairos means "the right moment" - reflecting on university-community engagements". View the seminar poster.

10 March - Presentation by Emilie Pinard (postdoctoral student, Architecture and Planning, Wits) entitled "Urban planning and urbanization 'from below' in Pikine, Senegal: Negotiating legitimacy, control and access to peri-urban land" - view the seminar poster.

4 March - Launch of two booksChanging Space Changing City: Johannesburg after Apartheid and Urban Governance of Post-apartheid Cities: Modes of Engagement in South Africa’s Metropoles. View the book launch invite

24 February - Presentation by Christoph Haferburg (University of Hamburg) entitled "Globalizing Perspectives on Urbanism and Urbanization – preliminary reflections on a current debate" - view the seminar poster.


30 September - Dr Costanza La Mantia (Wits) shared a presentation titled “Engaging Design with Socio-Ecological and Cultural Resilience: A Case Study from Cairo’s City of the Dead”.

2 September - Prof David Dickson (Wits) shared a presentation titled “A Different Kind of AIDS - Alternative Explanation of HIV/AIDS in South African Townships”.

26 August - Dr Tiago Castela (University of Coimbra) shared  a presentation titled “On the Provenance of Spatial Violence: A History of Planning the Peripheral in Late Colonial Mozambique.

12 August - Caroline Skinner (WIEGO and ACC, University of Cape Town), Richard Dobson and Patrick Ndlovu (Asiye eTafuleni) shared a presentation titled "What if… all existing street traders were legalized? Lessons from inner city Durban 1998-2005”.

29 July - Simon Sizwe Mayson shared a presentation titled "Accommodation and Tenuous Livelihoods on Johannesburg’s Inner City: The ‘Rooms’ and ‘Spaces’ Typologies'".

1 July - Kirsten Harrison with Potsiso Phasha launched the research report "Public Art: Aesthetic, Evocative and Invisible?"

24 June - Prof Martin Murray (University of Michigan) shared a presentation titled "Re-urbanizing Africa and Beyond: Building Master-planned Cities from Scratch”.

27 May - Rehana Moosajee (Rehana Moosajee Consulting) shared a presentation titled "Johannesburg – the city of contrast, contradiction and complexity". 

20 May - Kate Tissington (SERI) shared a presentation entitled " Minding the Gap: Low-Income Rental Accommodation in Inner City Johannesburg.”

10 April - Prof Richard Tomlinson (University of Melbourne) shared a presentation titled “An Inquiry into the Policy and Governance Contexts for Scalable Community-Led Slum Upgrading.”

1 April - LaDawn Haglund (Arizona State University) and Jackie Dugard (Wits Law School) shared a presentation entitled "Legal pathways to realizing human rights and sustainability in the greater Johannesburg area" - view the seminar poster.

18 March - Alice Cabaret (Global Regeneration Initiative for Neighbourhood Development) shared a presentation titled ''Inclusive neighbourhood regeneration through urban innovation: presentation of the GRIND initiative”. 

11 March - Prof Serge Salat (President, Urban Morphology and Complex Systems Institute, Paris) shared a presentation titled “Compact city strategies for Johannesburg: Achieving social inclusiness, economic development and climate change mitigation”.

4 March - Opening event of the "Spatial Transformation of Cities: Johannesburg as Laboratory" conference hosted by the City of Johannesburg and the South African Cities Network (SACN). Prof Frank Moulaert (KU Leuven, Belgium) gave a presentation titled “The legacy of integrated area development in European cities: can neighbourhoods save the city?" and launched his co-edited book The International Handbook on Social Innovation". 

25 February - Dr Christopher McMichael (University of the Witwatersrand) shared a presentation titled "Police, Pacification and Johannesburg" - read the seminar abstract.

18 February - Jacinto Cuvi (University of Texas) delivered a presentation titled "The Paradox of Pacification in Informal Markets: A Historical and Ethnographic Account of La Salada" - read the seminar abstract.

13 February - Inaugural lecture by Prof Marie Huchzermeyer entitled "Humanism, creativity and rights: invoking Henri Lefebvre’s right to the city in the tension presented by informal settlements in South Africa today". View photos from the lecture


29 October - Maria Coetzee (CSRI) shared a presentation titled “Provocations Inspired by a Data Driven Perspective on South African Cities”.

22 October - Miriam Maina (Wits) shared a presentation titled "The Question of Informal Settlements: Policy Transitions in Kenya and South Africa" - read the seminar abstract.

15 October - Nicholas Botha (UCT) shared a presentation entitled entitled "The Gateway of Tomorrow: Modernist Town Planning on Cape Town's Foreshore, 1930-1970" - read the seminar abstract

1 October - Dr Alex Wafer (Wits) shared a presentation entitled "Infrastructures of Expectation – Lost Geographies of State and Citizenship after Apartheid" - read the seminar abstract.

17 September - Christa Kuljian shared a presentation titled "Sanctuary – How an Inner-city Church Spilled onto a Sidewalk" - read the seminar abstract.

10 September - Dr Chris Benner (University of California) shared presentation titled "Doing Good and Doing Well: Equity, Growth and Resilient Regions" - read the seminar abstract.

27 August - Miriam Maina (Wits) shared a presentation titled "The Question of Informal Settlements: Policy Transitions in Kenya and South Africa" - read the seminar abstract.

20 August - Yasmeen Dinath (Wits) presented a paper co-authored with Yusuf Patel (President, South African Planning Institute) and Rashid Seedat (Head, Gauteng Planning Commission) titled "Socio- Spatial Footprints of Islam in Johannesburg" - read the seminar abstract.

13 August - David Morton (University of Virginia) shared a presentation titled "Home construction in the suburbios of Lourenzo Marque-Maputo"

6 August - Hannah le Roux, Yasmin Mayat and Brendan Hart (Wits) shared a presentation titled "Aiton Court: expanding the impacts of modernist renovation in Johannesburg".

30 July - Kristen Kornienko (Wits) shared a presentation titled "Engaging Informal Settlements as Landscapes of Place: Reconceptualising Urban Communities in the Struggle for in SITU Upgrading".

23 July - Prof Zhu Dajian (Director, Institute of Governance for Sustainable Development, Tongji University, Shanghai) gave a presentation titled "Sustainable Urbanization in China: Challenges, Transition and Policies."

18 June - Sarah Charlton (Wits) shared a presentation titled "Ambitions and Appropriations: state housing and people's practices in Johannesburg", followed by a response from Prof Phil Harrison.

11 June - Liela Groenewald (University of Johannesburg) gave a presentation titled "Lip Service: How the democratic South African state sidelines voices from informal settlements".

4 June - Noëleen Murray (University of the Western Cape) presented a paper titled "Critical Architecture and the Spatial Humanities". 

28 May - Maurice Smithers (Yeoville Bellevue Community Development Trust) delivered a presentation titled  "Opportunities and constraints of neighbourhood activism: the case of Yeoville Bellevue". This was followed by responses from Claire Benit-Gbaffou (CUBES) and Yasmeen Dinath (NRF SARChi, Wits)

21 May - Nqobile Zulu (Wits) delivered a presentation titled "Socio-spatial transformation in new immigrant spaces: a study of the Louis Botha Avenue corridor".

14 May - Kerry Bobbins (GCRO) delivered a presentation titled "Beneath the Surface: Investigating Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and its Governance in the Gauteng City-Region (GCR)", followed by a response by Graeme Gotz (GCRO).

7 May - Margot Rubin (Wits) delivered a presentation titled "Court cases and political efficiency: an exploration of the many types of change - a Delhi-Johannesburg comparison", followed by a response by Prof Marius Pieterse (Wits School of Law).

30 April - Melanie Samson (PARI) delivered a presentation entitled "The social uses of the law in struggles over waste, space and value at a Soweto garbage dump" followed by a response by Margot Rubin (Wits).

23 April - Dylan Weakley (Wits) delivered a presentation entitled "Recognising Vulnerability and Resilience: The Case of Kya Sands Informal Settlement".

16 April - Dr Robin Bloch (ICF GHK, London) delivered a presentation.

8 April - Gerhard Bruyns (TU Delft) delivered a presentation titled "Realities of Rescripting the Urban - A process of designing a research and design program which deals with moments of crisis and other urban materialities". 

2 April - Guy Trangoš delivered a presentation titled "Architecture and the City". 

19 March - Barbara Holtmann delivered a presentation about the workings and methodology behind a current multi-stakeholder socio-spatial initiative in the inner city called “The Best Life for Every Child: Connecting St Mary's Cathedral and the Drill Hall on a Safe and Clean Route”. 

12 March - Seminar series on "Spatial histories of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR)". The seminar saw two presentations, based on closely related Occasional Papers being published by the GCRO. Prof Alan Mabin (Wits) delivered a presentation on his paper "The map of Gauteng: evolution of a city-region in concept and plan". Brian Mubiwa and Prof Harold Annegarn (UJ) gave a presentation on their paper "Historical spatial change in the Gauteng City-Region". Read more

5 March - Laura Burocco delivered a presentation entitled "People's Place in the World Class City: the case of Braamfontein's Inner City Regeneration Project".