Joburg hosts Spatial Transformation of Cities Conference

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Using Johannesburg's Corridors of Freedom programme as a test case, delegates at the Spatial Transformation of Cities Conference will discuss building inclusive cities geared for growth.

The City of Johannesburg will host the South African Cities Network Spatial Transformation of Cities Conference from 4 to 6 March 2014.

The conference invites urban development experts to discuss how best to make cities more sustainable, resilient, liveable and equitable. A key discussion at the conference will include Johannesburg's Corridors of Freedom, which aims to open up the city to far-flung residents and bring residents closer to their places of work.

The introduction of the Corridors of Freedom has generated much interest from urban development practitioners in South Africa and in the rest of the world.

The Corridors of Freedom were introduced by Johannesburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau in his State of the City address in May 2013. The programme aims to undo some of apartheid's spatial planning, which the regime used to separate people on the basis of race.

These corridors will be well-planned transport arteries, with an emphasis on mixed-use living. High-density accommodation will be interspersed with office complexes, shops, and leisure and recreation infrastructure.

Using urban density as a proxy for compactness, Johannesburg has some of the lowest urban densities when compared to global cities. Average densities within the metropolitan region indicate 521 persons per square kilometre.

The city needs to become more compact, and improve living standards to achieve greater resilience and sustainability.

The conference

In order to address the legacy of apartheid it is imperative that cities are spatially transformed and restructured. Without a clear vision and plan for the transformation of our urban built environment, it will be very difficult for cities, and South Africa as a whole, to overcome the apartheid spatial legacy.

South Africa's city space economy is a key subject of interest at present. There are a number of urban growth and development policies and strategies that underpin this interest: the National Development Plan 2030, the current Integrated Urban Development Framework process, the City Support Programme, the Neighbourhood Development Programme, SA Cities Network's State of the Cities Report 2011 and 2016 Strategy, and the Department of Economic Development's social dialogues on the space economy, among others.

While the key policies and strategies for space-economy transformation might be understood, the practicalities of their application in the context of South African cities needs to be interrogated. In Johannesburg the 2040 Growth & Development Strategy's "Corridors of Freedom" spatial vision places space economy transformation at the heart of the development strategy for the current Mayoral term. This creates an opportunity to interrogate the City of Johannesburg's implementation plans and strategies to ensure that leading international practice is applied and lessons from other South African cities are taken into account.

The main objectives of this conference is to convene key role players in the urban space economy to:

  • Showcase and interrogate thinking and practical work undertaken by cities like Johannesburg to contribute to practice-based learning (the city as laboratory);
  • Gain knowledge and insight at the city scale (through the use of Johannesburg as a laboratory) by considering examples and lessons from other cities in SA and beyond.
  • Deepen mutual understanding and learning regarding challenges and strategies for spatial transformation;
  • Build the capacity of learning institutions like built environment schools in the universities and thematic industry associations and learning networks (sustainable cities collective and ERLN);
  • Contribute to informing national and local urban and spatial development policies and plans.

We are hoping for the following outcomes:

  • Improved understanding and awareness of spatial transformation, its role, how it should be thought of and implemented and who should be involved;
  • Provide insights into and recommendations for what is required (strategies, actions, considerations, etc.) for the co-production of the city where various actors (public and private sector as well as private individuals) are actively involved in the transformation and making of the city;
  • Provide lessons and insights into how policy is translated and implemented at the local level and what the challenges, complexities and opportunities are for spatial transformation.

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