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Signalling an Era of Equality
The city of Johannesburg is unique, with an unprecedented culture, history and skyline. One of the many Iconic structure seen from all over the city and known by all in South Africa is the “Sentec Tower”, or as it is locally known “The Brixton Tower”. Located in Brixton, a suburb of Johannesburg defined by its history linked to the mining monopolies, apartheid spatial inequalities and the past and current plague of slum lords in the neighbourhood due to inefficient amounts of inner-city housing for the citizens of South Africa. Brixton was originally built in 1902 to house the white working-class workers of Johannesburg’s prolific gold mines. The largest issue facing the suburb at present is the housing crisis which leads to the development of slum lord monopolies and subsequently increased crime rates, public health decline and overall exploitation of citizens. Still a shadow of hope falls upon this community, cast by the potentials of its icon.
The concrete shaft of Brixton Tower stands unmoving and omnipresent since the 1960’s, breaking the then record for tallest structure in Africa. In its prime the top of the tower was open to the public, hosting offices and meeting rooms, a cafe and viewing platforms/floors. Alas, since the 1980’s it has only hosted radio and TV frequencies and their technicians that manage them. The current residences of Brixton still yearn for the re-opening of the tower to the public. I have therefore proposed a radical approach that would in hopes deal with the housing crisis, community dis-cohesion and civil apathy.
I propose re-using the concrete structure of the tower as a new core for a lightweight steel tower which would host incremental low-cost/subsidised housing, a form of housing so desperately needed for 60% of South Africans. The existing ground floor buildings would be utilised for commercial and community functions. The new housing would become a form of incremental infill housing between the rigid new steel structure. I would take this one further and propose that the spaces of the housing be built and designed by its new owners, facilitated by a team of contractors, project managers, architects and engineers. This may seem absurd, yet many have had similar ideas such as “Rahul Mehrotra’s” study of the kinetic city or “Herman Hertzberger’s” concept of structuralism. This idea looks even less absurd when considered that up to 80% of all new buildings in South Africa built annually is believed to be informal and constructed by their soon to be occupants. Why not facilitate and harness this construction energy, let the people design their own spaces with the aid of a team and definite construction guidelines. By doing so we may prevent identity less housing roll-out and the ever-growing housing waiting list.
The Brixton Tower would then truly become re-integrated into its community, becoming a true icon of progressive change encompassing the adjacent schools and university sports fields.
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