Rashiq Fataar walks the streets of Durban’s CBD and cherishes the break in routine to inspire new questions and ideas about our cities.
Routine can be a good and bad thing. With most of our team living in the Atlantic Seaboard area, a quick walk, cycle or bus ride en route to a meeting and a strong cup of coffee at Bootlegger provides a certain level of comfort and a feeling of being at home in a neighbourhood. On a walk down Main and Regent Road, the faces on the street are now familiar: the florist, cake shop and Post Office open at a certain time; the place I park my bicycle is just outside; and the sounds, the parking attendants and the faces of MyCiTi drivers are now part of the daily choreography of the street, engrained in our brain and imprinted on our senses. But how about a change of scenery?
There is nothing like the element of surprise in a different town or city. Observing the daily routines of others and not being able to slip automatically into your own can inspire one to ask new questions about our cities and spaces. This need not be a holiday or an elaborate trip out of the country, but could be a weekend trip to one of our urban centres- with the goal of keeping our minds open and our senses sharp. And, perhaps even more importantly, with the aim of challenging our perspectives and assumptions about what makes for inclusive cities.
A few weekends ago Christine, Brett and myself spent some time out of Cape Town. Christine was in Johannesburg to attend an architecture conference debating the future city, hosted in Newtown in some of the oldest industrial sheds and mining warehouses in the city’s history. There she was surprised by how two years since her last two-month visit, Maboneng and the surrounds were now more walkable and vibrant, while Uber had radically overhauled the way the city works for visitors.
Brett sought some adventure across Johannesburg, cycling the streets of Braamfontein after midnight, likely as part of his research for one of our handful of cycling research collaborations, which will soon take us to Medellín. He also made time to visit other neighbourhoods, experiencing enlightenment at the Indian cuisine in Fordsburg and taking some downtime in a nearby park.
I was in Durban attending the first leg of the Urban Innovation Lab with a well located hotel in the city’s Point precinct. Standing on the balcony of my room I could watch ships come in and out of the port, as if there were passing by my window. Our article on Cape Town’s Port Gateway precinct by Sean Dayton was brought into perspective. There is nothing like actually living adjacent to Africa’s busiest port to experience what real harbour living might be like. And, the answer is, apart from the sound of the odd truck, living by the harbour is quite serene and calming.
Walking around Grey and Victoria Streets in downtown Durban, I tried to absorb as much as possible, and found myself negotiating a good price for a new mobile phone for one of the delegates from Addis Ababa. But the big question on my mind was still whether this CBD needed “regeneration” or just more promotion and care from the younger generation.
In our Studio Rotterdam series, Ibtesam’s takeover of our Instagram account for the weekend took our followers and readers on a virtual tour through Rotterdam’s streets and squares and iconic buildings, and took me back to my last visit to the city, about a year ago.
And for a change in scenery for a day, we took over some parking bays in Cape Town and Lagos, and announced the winner of the Regent Road parklet design competition. Since October is Transport Month we take a second look at the Langa Station and Maitland Station precincts, and also question why our road and transport interchanges don’t do enough to become safe zones.
Also keeping our minds open, our quarterly Advisory Board meeting challenged us in different ways to remain open to new opportunities and think more strategically about some of our new projects and ventures.
In the coming weeks I look forward to a big change of scenery as I share our work in New York at the MAS Summit and plan a visit to the expansion of the High Line and the new Whitney museum by Renzo Piano. I also hope to make time to visit the first ever Chicago Architecture Biennial, which recently opened to warm praise.
As always feel free to get in touch (firstname.lastname@example.org) or (email@example.com) and share your surprises in South Africa’s cities and towns. By Monday we were each on an early morning flight back to Cape Town. Sometimes it just takes a short weekend getaway to keep the creative juices flowing and our urbanist lenses clean. Where will you head next?