Finding collaborative solutions to community challenges

13 March 2018

A collaboration between PPC and the Non-Profit Organisation 1to1 – Agency of Engagement,

located just south of Soweto in Slovo Park, is demonstrating the value within co-design of public common space in informal neighbourhoods.

With PPC providing funding towards the project, ‘1to1 – Agency of Engagement’ and Steve Hoffe of ‘Build a Future’ have been able to work with community leaders, organised local groups and residents – assisting them to design and build a new space with and for themselves; challenging current institutional processes in place for South African urban re-development.Slovo Park lies in a politically and socially sensitive stretch of land just south of Soweto. Seen as a “limbo space”, it has been repeatedly renamed over the past several years as the Slovo Park Community Development Forum (SPCDF) struggles to gain recognition of the area as a viable option for formal development through government support.

In the case of Slovo Park, formal RDP development was started in the early 1990s with support for this process subsequently disappearing based on accusations of corruption, mismanagement and political manipulation. With support from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute (SERI), the SPCDF then went on to litigate against the City of Johannesburg for failing to deliver on its 1995 promise of development.

 “1to1 is a direct outcome of our student project with the SPCDF in 2010.  We were a group of students looking to deliver on course pre-requisites for our architecture degrees,” explains Jhono Bennett, co-founder of 1to1. “A big part of who we are now as an organisation, was learnt from working with Slovo Park leadership about how architecture and planning should be done collaboratively – as opposed to being imposed on people.”

Five years later the Public-Play 4 Development initiative was born. The team worked off a 2013 PPC project built by University of Johannesburg students, and brought Build a Future on board to work with residents and community leaders from the area to select this public common space and co-design as a public-play space.Slovo Park is the pilot of a larger programme which aims to start 25 new projects by 2020, with the ultimate goal of changing the way engineers, architects, planners and city officials practice and see neighbourhood development in the country.

“The biggest challenge we faced was funding. This prompted us to approach PPC,” says Bennet.PPC Architect, Daniel van der Merwe: “As PPC, we’re continually trying to push boundaries with our product. Armed with creative flair, there’s a lot one can create. This project bears testimony to what’s possible”

With the first phase of the project already completed, the team has moved onto phase two. This includes construction of play equipment, seating structures and micro-enterprise support elements where community members can meet, sit and relax and manage their local business interests.The structure was built by the community after attending various training and design sessions with Build a Future, with PPC contributing cement and towards other project materials in support.  

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