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Bridging urban divides through education for a sustainable future

- Wits University

The Kelvin-Alexandra-Frankenwald City Studio is set to tackle the pressing urban challenges surrounding the Alexandra township in Johannesburg.

Bridging urban divides through education for a sustainable future - Crowd

The City Studio launch was held on the 21st of May 2024 at the Marlboro Gautrain Station’s basement parking lot, taking advantage of tactile urbanisation. It was attended by Wits staff and students from the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, as well as residents and community leaders from Alexandra.

Scheduled from 2024 to 2026, this City Studio project prioritizes spatial justice, sustainability, and urban resilience. Through innovative approaches, it aims to tackle persistent urban inequality in South Africa by identifying crucial factors and developing practical solutions, ultimately working towards a more equitable and sustainable urban future.

Bridging urban divides through education for a sustainable future - Community

In collaboration with Wits University’s School of Architecture and Planning and the Centre for Urbanism & Built Environment Studies (CUBES), the City Studio brings together students from various disciplines, including Architecture, Planning, Urban Design, and Urban Studies.

"The City Studio equips students with the necessary tools, techniques, and confidence to confront spatial inequalities that exacerbate risk and vulnerability," said Professor Marie Huchzermeyer, from the School of Architecture and Planning. "Our approach is co-productive and participatory, allowing students to research alongside staff and contribute to a collective understanding of complex urban challenges and opportunities”.

By engaging with communities, key stakeholders, and professionals on real-life urban problems, the City Studio aims to enhance professional and public discourse on critical urban themes. This engagement facilitates transformative visioning for an alternative and just urban future, providing students, communities, and stakeholders with the ability to realize innovative and realistic urban development visions.

Ethan Fredricks, a third-year Wits student in Urban Regional Planning, said his interest in water and waste management is not only beneficial for his studies, but also the community. “Coming to the City Studio launch, the hope was to see how this project is set to deal with water and waste management, as it’s an important part in of my interested. This opportunity has helped me better equip myself to do better for the surrounding communities.”

Bridging urban divides through education for a sustainable future - Community

A similar sentiment was shared by Masters student Kyle Ludick, an architecture candidate, whose research study is set within the Kelvin-Alexandra-Frankenwald area. “This has helped me understand the importance of getting the community involved in your study, as they contributed to the lived experiences, while I used theory to back up my claims. This type of collaboration improves the outcomes as it addresses the community’s struggles”.

"Our goal is to advance knowledge and understanding of the area through participatory and transformative techniques," explained Professor Nnamdi Elleh, Head of School Architecture and Planning at Wits. "We are committed to developing and visualizing an alternative future for the currently segregated and deeply unequal Kelvin-Alexandra-Frankenwald complex”.

The Kelvin-Alexandra-Frankenwald City Studio stands as a testament to the power of education, collaboration, and community engagement in driving forward the vision of a just and sustainable urban future.