Image by Counterspace

Constructing Future Cities // imagining cities led and designed by women

Future Cape Town is a leading platform on re-thinking future cities. Through its online presence, research and projects the organization works towards the creation of more democratic, visionary and inclusive cities. I spoke to the founder of Future Cape Town Rashiq Fataar about their Constructing Future Cities project.

Research increasingly demonstrates that women are occupying leadership positions in business and cities around the world, and yet  the voices of women remain largely absent in the way our cities are designed and planned. In light of this, Mr. Fataar explains that their goal with Constructing Future Cities is to “use artists to give expression to what women think, feel and hope future cities could be. To provoke ideas and interesting possibilities for approaches to cities if they were entirely conceived by women, particularly young women.”. He situates the importance of these conversations within the broader urbanization process rapidly accelerating on the African continent and the gender inequality within the built environment sector. This project as a continuation of the work done by Future Cape Town, recognizes the need to challenge traditional approaches to understanding urban living and planning for the future. “What we have found is that cities of the past have been quite male-dominated in their planning and using a number of unsuccessful modernist-led planning approaches. What this has done is perpetuate inequality, and produce economic systems, justice systems, health systems and environmental systems which do not improve the quality of life for millions of people. We are at an important departure point where we need a new generation of visionaries who will re-imagine cities in a way that addresses the current challenges but also thinks about the future”.

Future Cape Town’s approach to research includes new informants and mediums to engage with these complexities. This has been put into motion through the Constructing Future Cities project where five women artists were selected to open up the discussion on re-imagining future cities. Choosing to work with artists follows on from their transdisciplinary approach to research and urban living. “It is essential that in this complex, intertwined world where we have been working in silos, where we have been limiting ourselves to our particular fields or professional education, that the future city will require people to grapple with working with new people. And we find that art and artists play a critical role early on in the process to challenge that way of working,” Rashiq explains. The artists they are working with include architecture graduates Amina Kaskar, Sumayya Vally and Sarah de Villiers from Counterspace  (an architectural firm based in Johannesburg), critical spatial practitioner Michelle Mlati and current Masters student in Landscape Architecture Thozama Mputa. Although they approach city-making from different perspectives, their work demonstrates passion for making the city a space for dialogue. These artists have been invited to create work that capture visions for cities, drawing on input from women in Durban, Cape Town and London.

Image by Thozama Mputa

The first phase of the project took place in Durban where they visited various parts of the city and hosted a workshop where a panel of 30 women from various sectors convened to discuss the role of women in re-imagining the city. Conversations revolved around the contemporary issues women face as a point of departure for looking at future cities. These issues included the education of women and the limitations that women face in the workplace.

The next phase of Constructing Future Cities will take place in Cape Town from 22-26 May. They will host another workshop, but the focus of this week will be on the artists putting their work together for the final day’s exhibition, to be held alongside a panel discussion.

Rashiq reflected on the the relationship that has emerged between Future Cape Town and the artists through their collaboration, emphasizing that their research has been enriched by working with women artists. “We see this part of the programme as more of a catalyst, and we hope to deepen our engagements with these artists and other artists to continue to push forward the idea of the SA city of the future led and designed by women.”.

To find out more about the Constructing Future Cities programme visit the Future Cape Town website.

Image from Counterspace

 

‘This article forms part of content created for the British Council Connect ZA 2017 Programme. To find out more about the programme click here.’

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