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A poem of a journey of return - retrieving memory in Pietersburg, South Africa

Part 2 Project 2000
Nabeel Essa
Nabeel Essa
University of the Witwatersrand Johannesburg South Africa


This journey, 'GOING HOME' is framed as an architectural autobiography and sets out to investigate the unresolved issues of Home within the emergent architectural identity of post-struggle South Africa. Contextualised within the field of memory, beginning with the forced removal of my grandfathers Shop/Home, the eviction of a minority Indian community and the 'SILENCED HISTORIES' of my hometown. An organizational strategy of 'URBAN BANDING' that provides the basis for merging the layers of past and present, with future, allows an enabling strategy for transformation. Conceived of as a filter for both physical and social conditions, the primary built intervention addresses contemporary needs of Pietersburg's range of displaced traders: providing a home for 'NOMADS IN THE CITY'.
A curved memory WALL reflecting the erased past, constructed with the rubble bricks of demolished buildings, translates a literal and figurative bridging of history though its material and phenomenal connection of past with present. Referring to the forced removal and general dislocation of everyday life in Pietersburg, the mortarless gabions reveal the shifting nature
of history and the possibility encompassed in our collective future. A critical junction, in both place and time is offered, as one partial contribution to the healing of this apartheid town.

Nabeel Essa
Nabeel Essa


body building|re-writing type framed the discourse for the 1999 THESIS Bachelor of Architecture program. Although ‘design discourse' in the Department of Architecture is directed at independent inquiry, current investigations by thesis candidates have tended to reflect the events and concerns in the contemporary SA city. The city, as perhaps the highest form of built human expression, therefore, becomes a natural locus for speculation and thinking topically. Despite a predominance of the Inner-City inquiries, individual Topics have been specifically identified through a process of research around issues of transformation in relation to emerging political processes, as well as to contemporary architectural theory. In particular, the critique of ‘type' and its associative limitations in relation to the possible ‘false truths' of apartheid and the predominance of certainty associated with the western construct. The discretionary influence of both precedent and the linear ‘date/place/building' method until recently promoted by the departments conception of architectural history demanded direct confrontation. Positions have been topically constructed by research and argument, uncovering ‘Issue|Siting|Programming' as core activitiesd for design generation. These subjectivities have been translated and interpreted through a ‘narrative research process' whereby interactive exercises have sought to provoke difference and effect new sets of social arrangements. Consequently, process has been privileged above that of final product, in an attempt to overturn architecture's other hegemony, that of material culture, seemingly the predominant global value. Phenomenal experience and temporal possibility have become checks for developing a thoughtful and resilient material culture within the architectural inquiry.


In responding to these situations, Nabeel Esa constructed an ethical base from which to operate and intervene in the city. Whilst building type and physical arrangements may seem less familiar, the human conditions addressed are re-iterative. Situations of Living, Working, Recreating, Learning, Interacting, and etc. persist, and it has been possible to re- write type through attention to both memory and the common concerns of the rituals of everyday and celebratory life.

Iain Low - Thesis Director | November 1999

2000
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