What next? : densifying suburban Brooklyn

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Due to the historical development of South African cities during the early 1900s, a great deal of the South African city now comprises of suburban environments. For all its negative portrayal in architectural discourse, there are also significant positive attributes to suburbia. Currently, the South African suburban condition is densifying. This process of densification means that the suburban form as we have known it is currently changing quite rapidly. We now sit in a position where we can either allow these suburban environments to evolve without architectural consideration which may exacerbate the negative aspects of suburbia, whilst undermining its positives. Alternatively, we can unpack the characteristics of suburbia with the intent of offering architectural solutions which may facilitate responsible densification whilst preserving the positives and addressing the negatives. Because such significant portions of our cities are sub urban in character - and are experiencing pressures to densify, this project asks whether it is possible to visualise a positive, healthy and responsible future suburban form. In the words of Robert Crumb, we ask ‘What’s Next?” This project proposes a simple and relatively quickly implementable architectural solution to the densification of the suburban township of Brooklyn in Pretoria over the next two to three decades. The project attempts to use the opportunity (presented by the city’s need to densify) to reconfigure the future suburban form for the better. Brooklyn is used as a casestudy through which the positive and negative characteristics of suburban environments are unpacked - and possible solutions for its future densification are proposed. Naturally, suburban environments differ from township to township. As such, this project does not look for an all-encompassing solution to the future of suburbia. Rather, it attempts to produce a critical, detailed, site-specific solution to a single suburban township. This approach acknowledges the importance of the architect in the creation of successful cities, but will hopefully stimulate the creative pursuit of solutions for - and a broader debate over the future of such enormous tracts of our South African cities - suburbia.

Includes bibliographical references.