Oct 31, 201310:00 AMPoint of View
Stress and Wellness in Johannesburg: Part 5
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When we first visited Johannesburg, we viewed the urban panorama from the observation tower in the city center. It was raining and only a few artificial lights illuminated the city dimly, evidence of a lack of electricity and the absence of urban activities that bring life to this South African city. This urban realm appeared frozen. It looked as if it were waiting for some decisive moment. Evidence of Johannesburg’s shortages is borne out in statistics: 12% of households live in informal dwellings, 15% live in Reconstruction Development Programme houses with no communal space, where clean water is limited, and paraffin and wood are used for cooking and heating.
These conditions are prevalent in Soweto, the suburban area of Johannesburg. Soweto’s Orlando power plant, coal fired and now decommissioned, was one of the most advanced power stations in the southern hemisphere in its heyday, from 1964 to 1989. The location for the station was selected for its proximity to water for cooling and to railway lines for the delivery of coal. Today, it serves as a faded symbol of Soweto, and the South African government plans to develop it into a tourist destination.
Courtesy Daegeon Jeong
My project for the GSAPP studio proposes adaptively reusing the hollowed out and abandoned power plant--a brick, glass, and steel factory-like building sprawling across the middle of Soweto. The project’s intent is to draw attention to the current minimal power sources and the effects this shortage has on the general public here; there is a lack of 21st century housing, insufficient amount of electricity and what is produced here is sold to surrounding areas, and the compounding conditions of neglect that result in poor hygienic conditions.