The Journey of Design and Critical Dialogue. Securing the Presence of Urban Livelihoods.
Richard Dobson Architect-SA
Drawings, plans, elevations
NPO Asiye eTafuleni (AeT) was founded by Richard Dobson (an architect by profession) and Patrick Ndlovu, two long-serving ex-municipal officials concerned with the widening gap between city government’s urban agenda and the realities faced by Durban’s inner-city informal workers – a large and historic community. Dobson and Ndlovu had been a part of an award winning municipal urban regeneration project, Warwick Junction, an experience that informed their belief that informal workers should be engaged more meaningfully in the urban design and planning processes that affect their workplace environments. AeT works locally and globally to promote inclusive urban design and planning to empower informal workers to become co-designers of their working environments. Informal workers – street traders, waste pickers etc. – are some of the poorest and most vulnerable workers in the world, despite their significant contributions to local economies and cultural life. AeT believes that supporting informal market spaces – markets, street-side vending, waste picking etc – should be integrated into city’s planning and budgeting priorities with the aim of creating urban environments that are both supportive of informal workers’ livelihoods and create vibrant and culturally important urban spaces for the entire city. At the heart of this concern is that this work is critical to post-apartheid transformation of South African cities and towns, and overturning the racial, economic and spatial divisions entrenched during the colonial and apartheid era. Due to AeT’s deliberate integration of urban design and planning expertise coupled with grounded social facilitation service, it acts as “socio-technical” agents in decoding design and development in ways that enables informal workers to participate as co-designers. AeT’s work in inclusive and participatory design is shaped by the explicit understanding of informal workers and with their participation throughout the design and development phases including in evaluation, as an iterative process. The inclusive design process is inherently collaborative with not informal workers, and with multidisciplinary teams comprising built-environment and other relevant professionals to address social transformation at scale. It is also a process which takes into account the complex system of needs beyond but linked to design that impact informal workers, encompassing the psycho-social dimension, occupational health and safety, legal systems, economics etc. Asiye eTafuleni literally means, «Come, let’s go to the table», and figuratively implies «Let’s negotiate» as a proactive invitation to urban decision makers to engage informal workers about inclusive urban design. The Project is the process of inclusive design utilising participatory methodologies with informal workers, and exemplified by a number of case studies such as the redevelopment of the Bovine Head Cooks’ Facility.