Nov 1, 201310:00 AMPoint of View

Stress and Wellness in Johannesburg: Part 6

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Courtesy Thomas Heltzel

The New Bara

Located opposite the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital and Potchefstroom Road — the main arterial into Soweto — the Bara Taxi rank is the largest in Johannesburg and acts as the gateway between Soweto and the rest of the metropolitan area. All Soweto taxis converge here.

My project rethinks the role of the Bara taxi rank, understanding that the qualities and experiences of this space play a critical part in the daily lives of Soweto’s citizens. Every day, over 70% of commuters pass through Bara and the workings of the rank provide opportunities for urban experiences other than just transportation. Designed as a mediating point between formal and informal activity, this hybrid space provides transport, trade, social interaction, education, health, and a moment of density and urbanity within the sprawl of Soweto.

Courtesy Thomas Heltzel

While many of Johannesburg’s new taxi ranks provide multiple programs other than transportation, they are consistently segregated and isolated from the loading and queueing areas, thus they’re distinct from the main reason for the user’s presence - they are secondary add-ons. This rank will provide the typical program — ranking, loading, and drop off spaces — as well as “drive-thru” clinics, recreation opportunities, a market, an assembly hall for the South African National Taxi Council, training and servicing spaces, maintenance facilities, and a driver’s club.

This range of programs will be entwined into a new, thick, composite structure. An efficient matrix of loading and unloading routes is expanded and weaved (in all dimensions) with passenger circulation, markets, health and recreation programs. By using the ability of the taxis to accommodate sectional movement, the rank will simultaneously provide an efficient, oriented means of transfer from taxi to taxi and access to vital programs in a dense, interactive environment. Additionally, as a main mode of access to the Baragwanath Hospital, the project will use the opportunity to reorganize the hospital’s entrance sequence. The existing crowded bridge will be expanded, and small scale waiting spaces will be intermixed with the required areas for the flow of people in and out of the complex. Circulation will accommodate and orient movement to the rank, the arrival and exit of private vehicles, and the arrival of emergency vehicles. The new space will provide an entrance to the complex that is fitting to the importance of the hospital and to the seriousness of the events within.



Thomas Heltzel, LEED AP, is a designer at MOS Architects in New York City. He has previously worked at the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in Paris and Behnisch Architekten in Los Angeles. He holds a B.A. in Architecture from Miami University (OH) and a Masters of Architecture from Columbia University, GSAPP where he received the Lucile Smyser Lowenfish Prize and the American Institutes of Architect’s Certificate.


Read more posts from the Stress and Wellness in Johannesburg series here.

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