UIA Day 1

Architecture is political!

Otherw[here] is impolite, uncalled for, for the insecure political times we live in.

Architecture is social, getting us to better places where we have never been.

It is the coming together with burden of geographical location up-ended no-longer north looking south or south looking north.

Otherw[here] brought us to engage with all the widely divergent views in order to create unimagined spaces, so that we can a create transformative mode of architecture.

Hilton Judin’s, opening words set the tone for a day that was provocative, inspiring and urgent.

With the proceedings starting so dangerously, late that might invoke the notion of African time, the blame was laid on the dignitaries who were slightly tardy. Proceedings quickly gathered pace with the dignitaries picking up the tone that architecture is catalyst for change.

Thulas Nxesi | Blade Ndzaminde

While the Minister of Public Works…Thulas Nxesi, with the regulatory bodyguard with earpiece in tow, didn’t provide any fresh insights – Blade Ndzaminde, minister of Higher Education and Training, gave a surprisingly refreshing talk. He picked up on Judin’s provocative statement, by expanding on it by stating:

Architecture IS political, nothing about it is neutral, but adding that it  must also reflect the aspirations of the people.

A pleasant surprise that the savvy politician didn’t hide behind rhetoric. He suggested several pragmatic responses

including that the government is going to invest in new generation of thinkers to repurpose the system so that the imbalance in infrastructure development is addressed. All talk?

Cameron Sinclair | Makena Mokeka

Seems like everyone was listening closely to Blade, including keynote-speaker – Cameron Sinclair who in his Ted-talk like to full auditorium was accorded rock- star status who with local architect, the charismatic Maekena Makeka, elicited a quite few chuckles with their risqué banter on stage.

Sinclair, co-founder of Architecture for Humanity and writer of seminal work “Design like you give a Damn!” deviated from his prepared talk to directly address Ndzaminde’s address by saying that ..if South Africa wants to create a new generation of inspired professionals, government needs to invest in the future now, by creating inspiring building where children living the desolate spaces have beautiful spaces to aspire to.

If all it sounds like politico-archi-talk, some of it was! But mostly time was spent in corridors of the ICC connecting and reconnecting with familiar faces.. lots of airkissing and merging of languages. The students congress added the youthful element of hip-hop, and energy.You certainly needed the energy, youth and running shoes to get to all the 300 events planned. Certainly too much to take in a day, but there was respite with some design glamour.

The Olympics of Architecture had its obligatory opening ceremony with moving and jaw-dropping agile performance of dancers introducing the diversity of Durban, ending with a moving rendition of the anthem.

The Beach party to end the day was cancelled to a groan of protest from mostly students looking to bookend the studious day of talks.

Load of delegates headed to the Durban beachfront anyways. The trip made worthwhile by the installation of artist, Chia-Wen Tsai at the Rachel Finlayson pool.

The artist transforming the pools into streams of colour inspired by the Joburg Highveld, into a public space that draws people into the space beyond swimming and into art. Best part of the day was the night!

It seems like the city of Durban’s beckons on Day 2, for the Fringe Projects. No more scientific papers.