Oct 30, 201310:00 AMPoint of View
Stress and Wellness in Johannesburg: Part 4
(page 1 of 2)
Gender-based violence is among the most prevalent and ignored violations of human rights. The physical and emotional harm caused by human predators infects households, communities, and cities across the globe. Social marginalization and dismissive government exasperate these problems. This is reflected by the rising occurrence of crimes against women in many countries the world over. The United Nations estimate that acts of violence against women affect at least one out of every three women globally (1).
The statistics in South Africa are grim. Although it is estimated that only one in nine rapes are reported, the country still stands as having the highest rate of reported rapes per capita in the world (2). Ill-equipped medical facilities, untrained clinicians, long wait times, and the daunting threat of social stigmatization deter battered women from seeking immediate physical or post-traumatic treatment.
Furthermore, criminal statistics show that 73% of women know their attacker, 40% of all incidents occur within the victim’s home, and an additional 20% occur within two blocks of their own homes are at the home of a friend or relative (3).
As architects we must address this condition with the creation of safer spaces. In doing so, we can design new treatment space, rethink the way we design domestic space, attract women to seek proper healthcare treatment, and foster preventative conditions at home and in the neighborhood.
Sanctuary Shelter Project
Today there is tension in South Africa between secure ‘underground’ women shelters and women-empowerment organizations. My project hypothesizes that within the blighted urban conditions of Johannesburg, a new typology must emerge: secure sanctuary environments which provide spaces for women to heal in solitude, while also creating outlets for communal growth and foster solidarity among women. The project intends to operate on a two-tier programmatic strategy, providing immediate shelter and medical care to women along with more permanent housing for them.
Courtesy Mia Zinni
In order to secure the facilities, along with creating an environment that feels safe for its users, the architecture implements methods of camouflage, through materiality and hidden fenestration. Situated in the heart of Hillbrow, a notoriously dangerous neighborhood with a high density of housing, the project is in an ideal location to serve the community. The surrounding market and network of vendors around the site are already populated with stands operated by women, and have the potential to act as its own grassroots security system. The market could provide the women residing in the shelter with outlets for work. The stores and vendors can blend easily into the existing urban fabric, camouflaging the inner facilities.