THE EXCHANGE CONSULTATE
Drawings, plans, elevations
Located in the CBD of Johannesburg City and known to only the elite few, otherwise considered as the ‘outsiders or travellers”, lies a hidden architecture created by economic enclaves for ‘informal’ residents of the city including foreign migrants.
These enclaves are organised activities, conducted by minority groups in order to maintain strong boundaries and a sense of identity within places they find themselves. Through these enclaves, migrants in Johannesburg city are able to access and obtain social and economic benefits that sustain their stay within the city.
Johannesburg, like many other metropolitan cities, faces high levels of immigration both local and international. This against the backdrop of an apartheid history and a capitalist post-apartheid economic landscape has left many of the city dwellers, most of which are immigrants, excluded from the city’s social and economic activities. Immigrants have no rights to the city and access to facilities and services is highly institutionally restricted. Migrants are therefore, alternatively involved in informality as a means of survival and urban livelihood, by creating a new logic and rituals or practices which have created new geographies of opportunity for minorities.
However, these geographies, howbeit ethically biased, have fundamentally altered the fate of the “outsiders” within the city by not only through provision of opportunities and services but also regulating how migrants access the city thereby providing a sense of agency, identity and protection for minorities. By creating own hidden boundaries, economic enclaves have developed a form of access control on how and by whom the enclaves are access. In this, we discover the existence of a “neo” form of “passport” that determines when and how enclaves of Johannesburg city are accessed by migrants. These passports are in different forms ranging from ethic group, to language, to cultural beliefs and apparel. By way of appearance, a migrant urban dweller for example is able to have access to work opportunities within a particular space in the city. This access comes by way of identity, acceptance and a sense of belonging for the migrant, and trust and reliability for those providing the opportunity. We therefore find apparel to be one of the many passports used by those otherwise considered “outsiders”. Also interesting within these enclaves is how these passports are time specific, thereby proving the opportunity for use of multiple passports by the migrants which further increases the opportunities available to him by way of access to multiple enclaves. An architecture is thus revealed here that is time and space specific. This becomes the objective of the project; to reveal the fictious boundaries of territorial organisations within the CBD and how they are accessed and by whom.
The project is thus situated on the backdrop of these nuanced encounters in ‘hidden spaces’ called economic enclaves of Johannesburg CBD., the architecture that is created within these hidden spaces, and the economic and cultural actors that have constructed their own complex forms of networked transactions to meet their urban needs.
The idea of constructing customised hyper-performing economic sites has deep relevance for a city seeking to chart its next wave of transition, particularly in the face of macro-economic volatility.