The missing middle : nascent potential in South Africa's commercial environment

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

My interest this year was around the commercial development potential of low-income areas in South Africa. The dissertation title, "The Missing Middle" refers to three aspects of the commercial environment in South Africa which I believe to be missing, ones relating to economics, architecture and built-environment professional practice. Economics: I was interested in the gap between two disparate economies in South Africa, those that in oversimplified terms are referred to as the formal and informal economies. Architecture: I was interested in the fact that this disparity was reflected in the types of retail buildings seen in South Africa - the fact that there are a large number of big-box type shopping centres and a large number of small-scale micro-enterprises but very few retail buildings that are at a scale between these two. Practice: I was interested in the gap in the market for the provision of built-environment professional services in low-income areas. These three aspects informed the design for a retail centre in the low-income suburb of Du Noon. The design project, entitled Waxberry Market, is aimed at filling the gap between small-scale informal trade and large-scale retail centres (shopping malls) in the context of South Africa's low-income suburbs. This report documents my dissertation in four parts. The first three relate to my initial enquiries around economics, architecture and practice with the last part covering the design project.

Includes bibliographical references