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Architecture of Parkour

Part 1 Project 2012
Mieke Joubert
University of the Free State Bloemfontein South Africa
The project called for an architectural intervention in a vibrant informal urban market. This market is a narrow neglected street, occupied by a multitude of hawkers, shops, buyers and pedestrians all desperately trying to sell, buy and circulate through the constricted space. The inserted architecture was not to change the existing African urban chora, but instead had to contribute to the phenomena of the market. Parkour, the art of overcoming obstacles through swift physical movements, was chosen as a script to be re-scripted into architecture.

Parkour is the art of corporal movement. Through practising Parkour, new routes through, over and under the city are discovered and common urban perspectives are questioned. The alley with its steep vertical walls is an ideal place to practice Parkour. An architecture of Parkour was placed in the area, leaving the floor of the alley where the market actively functions alone, instead climbing up against the walls, balancing on the edges of the buildings.

The structure houses a photography gallery and formal market space that captures the dynamic equilibrium essential to Parkour, simultaneously creating a canopy for the informal market underneath. The shards of light falling through the building onto the market floor, retains the connection with the only natural element present in the existing market, the sky. The market place is not changed but purely enhanced, becoming a happening and a cinematic space. The kinetic quality of the structure echoes the movement of the people through the knotted space below. At the same time the contrasts between light and dark, floor and wall, and man and building comments on the urban environment within which the city dweller struggles to orientate and identify him-/herself, yet is obliged to navigate for survival.

Mieke Joubert


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