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Never Modern: High-rise Housing and Race in 1950s Johannesburg

When: Friday, 20 April 2018 - Friday, 20 April 2018
Where: Braamfontein Campus East
Anthropology Museum, Robert Sobukwe Block, Ground Floor
Start time:13:00

The Wits City Institute will host this seminar by Jonathan Cane, postdoctoral fellow at the Institute.

This seminar is based on a draft chapter which intends to account for the unique rejection of high-rise housing solutions for poor black urbanites in South Africa in the mid-twentieth century. What was then called the ‘native housing problem’ was dealt with by extensive CIAM-type research into low-rise detached bungalows which resulted in the infamous 1951 design template that has proliferated across the country until this day. Whereas, internationally the mid-century high-rise block came to stand as low-income housing, including in other parts of southern Africa (Southern Rhodesia, for instance), in South African the ‘match-box’ house or NE51 continues to both over-determine ways of building and has lead to low-density low-rise planning and continued urban segregation. The chapter aims to (a) account for this historical anomaly and to place South Africa apartheid-era planning in world-historical context and to respond to histories of high-rise low-income planning internationally; and (b) to extend the discourse of verticality and to provide Southern postcolonial contributions to the debate.

Respondent: Margot Rubin

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