The relevance of public space in Johannesburg: resilience and the role of urban design in a contemporary city

Peters, Kelly
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What is the relevance of public space, especially in adevelopingmodern city where change is constant? Are the key determining factors tangible or intangible? How can public areas become more relevant? The intention of the research is to attempt to understand public space, its relevance and the role that it fulfils within urban planning and urban designthrough a resilience perspective. To explore this question, the area first known as Market Square in Johannesburg’s former Central Business District (CBD), is the Case Study. Situated inthe commercial core of the historic central business district in the Inner City of Johannesburg, this public square is the oldest in the City. Developed in the early years of the City’s conception, the space is surrounded by civic buildings, such as the City Library and City Hall. Originally, the area functioned as a market and facilitated the exchange of goods and services. As the City has grown and developed, the space has undergone several changes and it is argued that its historical importance and present relevance are absent. To understand the space’s relevance as the City has grown and developed into a modern metropolis, the resilience of the Square and its surrounding area has been detailed. It has been captured through a series of drawings of the space over the last eighty years or so. The intention isto recognise and realise the resilient elements as well as the Square’s relevance in the broader City context at a particular time. It is also to understand how these factors have influence the development of the Square as time has progressed. Based on these drawings, the conclusion of this research proposes an urban design framework for the Square’s precinct. Through developing an understanding of the space’s resilience, the intention of design is to reflect the Square’s historical significance through creating a relevant plan.
A research report submitted to the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Urban Design