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Monte Popina - 2guns transportable

Part 2 Project 2002
Ina Tegen
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa
Housing on the Move
- 2guns transportable road liberations: a future vision

Johannesburg’s post-Apartheid spatial geography is still based on a segregated urban landscape. Enclaves of wealth are fenced-off from extensive left-over spaces, buffer zones and that other reality labeled ‘informal’. The division of space is yet increasingly challenged and appropriated by a transient fabric of informal trading, informal housing and informal public transport nodes, resulting in an urban landscape with absurd contrasts between the built environment and its flexible in-fill.

The particular situation of Johannesburg has inspired me to look at possibilities for introducing transportable social housing elements. The transportability of my low-cost housing prototype deals with traditional African nomadic life styles, modern quests for increased mobility and the transient nature of Johannesburg. The 2guns transportable system functions as an ‘Urban Kit of Parts’ for the densification of major urban roads to enhance arterial roads as connecting elements. The system consists mainly of concrete service cores and offers a variety of arrangements. It provides only a basic framework that deals with all critical conditions of informal/semi-formal housing yet allows for diversity, a flexible in-fill, user participation as well as self-build schemes. It re-uses wastelands between the road and private property walls, plugging into existing infrastructure. My thesis includes a management and financing strategy and deals with the fusion of formal and informal construction industries.

The test site ‘Monte Popina’ is a strip of wasteland, framed by typical commercial and residential developments North of Johannesburg, offering multi-facetted opportunities for the urban poor. Monte Popina is located between typical private property walls and one of Johannesburg’s major arterial routes, with 56 mixed-use housing/trading sites and one communal area connecting to wealthy suburbia.

My project challenges the fear of ‘the other’ that manifests in the order of space in Johannesburg – it paints a ‘what if…?’ scenario:
What if… we were to recycle a culture of walls and use it as a backdrop for new developments? What if… we appropriate places of opportunity for the urban poor? What if… urban infrastructure was shared equally? What if… social housing was transportable?

Ina Tegen


The northern hills of Johannesburg are engulfed in a tide of Tuscan pastiche of absurd proportions. The developers of gated housing estates, casino complexes, hotels, shopping centers and office parks have somehow conspired to create an insatiable appetite for everything Italian, in particular Tuscan, amongst Johannesburg’s affluent classes. These enclaves are surrounded by bristling fields of razor wire, electric fences, motorized gates, tracking devices, cordoned-off roads, sentries, patrols.

Outside the enclaves, streets, roads and highways are traversed, not only by the affluent in their status seeking motor vehicles, but also by a myriad of taxi operators, small time traders, pedestrians and informal operators, moving daily between distant places of residence and sites of employment. The developing edge city world makes no accommodation for the working class, other than through this daily migration from home to work and back.

These conditions became the subject of Ina Tegen’s 2001 thesis project. Noting the temporary shelters and mobile infrastructures by means of which people in the city survive, she designed an easily erected, transportable housing system and tested its efficacy by proposing it occupy a wide shoulder adjacent one of Johannesburg’s major north-south arterial roads, outside the Monte Casino Hotel. Nestling between advertising hoardings and private boundary walls, a serviced lightweight concrete element provides the basic unit of habitation, sanitation and spatial subdivision. The settlement is called “Montepopina”, in ironic reference to its prestigious neighbours.

This project juxtaposes rich and poor, formal and informal, black and white in intimate proximity. It exposes the prevailing structures of urban experience in the South African city as being those of separation, segregation and the policing of boundaries. Space is subversively appropriated through the structures of civility, openness and a tolerance of heterogeneity.

This produced deep seated anxieties and suspicion. A number of the student’s examiners and viewers grew angry and condemnatory, labeling her work irresponsible and absurd. They were unable to read its serious intent – the construction of a “normative ideal of city life” (Young 1990), as an alternative to existing urban experience, through the tropes of negation, humour and irony.


2002
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