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Making space for humans

Thursday, 11 February 2016   (0 Comments)
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This month’s design discipline focuses on spatial design. 

"Spatial design is a very broad topic," explains Y. Tsai, architect and founder of Cape Town-based Tsai Design Studio. But in essence, he continues, "it’s all about designing spaces that enrich the user’s experience."

Tsai adds that good spatial design is also about multi-functionality, saying that "designing a space to include multiple functions enhances its quality."

While spatial design plays an important role in the design of internal spaces, external, and in particular, public spaces - such as the Grand Parade in Cape Town - could offer users a much richer experience if they’re able to accommodate additional functions. Originally built as a military training ground, today’s Parade acts primarily as a car park. Tsai considers that the area could be much enhanced by adding other functional elements. Benches, a detachable amphitheatre, or other elements could transform the area into a more positive, vibrant public space.

Rashiq Fataar, founder of urban think tank Future Cape Town, goes further by suggesting that successful urban spaces offer a multi-faceted, multi-functional experience to the people who live, work and travel through them. He explains: “An area dominated by offices that are open only from nine to five during weekdays becomes bland and one-dimensional without the dynamic vibrancy that comes with after-hours activities such as people enjoying public spaces, bars, restaurants and housing."

Multiple functions, uses and spaces add an extra dimension that enriches the user's experience. He also offers that for large parts of the city, areas around transport nodes and stations could benefit from improved lighting, and a mix of uses that really incorporates informal traders, but even broader than that, the informal economy.

On a larger scale, South Africans know all too well that while spatial design can build, it can also destroy. "Apartheid was a boldly delivered design project," says Fataar. Redesigning post-apartheid Cape Town needs "equally bold design proposals, brought to light by multiple design disciplines – urban designers, graphic designers, economists, anthropologists and architects and others, to provoke solutions that can address the physical segregation that epitomised apartheid ideology."

Many spatial development plans have been developed over the years in an attempt to achieve this goal. Some have been more successful than others, but one in particular promises to represent all the elements of effective spatial design in an urban context.

The Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP) is an ambitious multi-disciplinary project that takes a design-led approach to finding integrated solutions to apartheid-era spatial planning.

Last month, the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape Government announced that a memorandum of understanding had been signed with the Kingdom of the Netherlands to share expertise in the development of 120 hectares of land that lies at the convergence of the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.

Supported by the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Cape Town under its #cocreateSA initiative, the vision for the TRUP project is that of a fully integrated mixed-used, high-density, mixed-income neighbourhood once complete.

Thessa Bos, Deputy Consul General, explains what the collaboration represents: "The #cocreateSA initiative is about finding long-term solutions to local issues. TRUP brings together South African and Dutch experts in all disciplines, from water management and heritage, to transport and logistics, among many others. The project aims to break down silos between design and planning disciplines to co-create integrated design-led solutions that can connect communities in Cape Town."

Spatial design, therefore, is about designing at all levels, from macro to micro, whether inside an art gallery or at the border of a CBD. Regardless of scale, spatial design is about finding ways to enhance and improve the human experience.

For more information, visit these websites:

Tsai Design Studio

Future Cape Town



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