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The Theme of Resilience and Spatial Justice

Resilience and spatial justice in the built environment has implications at various scales and in different intensities of urban formations. In this project PhD students have articulated research topics that explore these critical themes in relation to space at different levels, from buildings through precincts to towns and cities, and also in relation to small towns through to the metropolitan cities of Durban and Johannesburg. Thus the project brings together and into conversation a variety of contexts and angles on the overarching question of resilience and spatial justice.  

Resilience and spatial justice in the built environment (cities, towns and villages) are key to urban sustainability and overcoming spatial inequality. South Africa continues to grapple with unsustainable urban form and persistent urban inequality, widely acknowledged as complex legacies of apartheid and prior segregatory policy. The 14 ‘priorities and key actions’ of South Africa’s Medium-Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2014 to 2019 include ‘Sustainable human settlements and improved quality of household life’. This links to one of the eight 2014-19 electoral mandates: ‘Ensuring access to adequate human settlements and quality basic services’. The MTSF is based on the National Development Plan of 2012, which details interlinked and multi-scalar challenges such as urban safety, informal settlement upgrading, public and non-motorised transport and the diversification of tenure forms. This project builds capacity within the cohort to address these complexities through an interdisciplinary lens. 

Students have chosen topics that address complex socio-spatial phenomena and challenges in contemporary urban South Africa. These relate to public space, high rise living, gated seclusion, urban spatial change, emancipatory place-making, economic development, alternative economies and waste management.