Programme

THE CRISIS IN S A CITIES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN URBANISTS IN THE PUBLIC, PRIVATE AND...

MR 21DEF [South African Planning Institute (SAPI)], ICC

Parallel Academic Session
Programme Partner
Tuesday, 5 August   11:00AM - 11:20AM

The Crisis in S A Cities in the context of the dysfunctional relationship between Urbanists in the Public, Private and Academic Sectors

The most significant obstacle to meaningful urban transformation in South Africa lies not in a shortage of academic ‘know how’, not in a shortage of public sector investment, not in a shortage of private sector mobilisation, but rather in the entrenched dysfunctional relationship between these three sectors.

The public sector has become driven by a number of imperatives that require it to ‘procure’ the ‘services’ offered by the private sector in a standardised mechanism. The unavoidable net result of this strategy is a contested, unproductive standoff between the public sector ‘urban silo’ and the private sector ‘urban silo’. No vision or leadership emerges from this standoff.

In a similar way urbanists in the ‘academic silo’ come under increasing pressure to focus not on the South African urban crisis, but rather on ‘purer’ academic pursuits. This trend seems unstoppable, with a momentum developed from very high up in South Africa’s higher education community. Those from private practice who give their time to the university, do so as volunteers and turn away hourly paid work to do so. Academics offering to serve the public sectors are as a commodity to be bought through a procurement system.

In architectural practices we find that the energies of the brightest minds are committed to pure commercial pursuits. Architects at the top of their game commit most of their valuable time and energy in managing risk, resolving conflict and ensuring cash flow. Research and Development have become expensive swearwords in architectural practices that are intent on staying in business.

In this way, the silos grow more and more isolated and positions within them become more and more entrenched, urbanists of otherwise impeccable credentials begin to withdraw into cynicism and isolation. Great ideas are shelved. Big visions parked. Energy diverted.

Keywords: urban crisis, professional practice, academic, public sector, collaboration.

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Timothy Hewitt-Coleman
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