The Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA) has implemented more than 300 projects across the city in the 15 years of its operation, the agency’s executive manager for planning and strategy, Douglas Cohen, told delegates at the AZA16 festival at Wits University.

Cohen was one of 20 local and six international speakers at the design and architecture festival, which ran from 1 to 3 September and was hosted by Wits and the SA Institute of Architects with support from PPC Cement and the JDA.


Cohen said the JDA prioritised areas for attention “on the basis of declining conditions, a poor public environment, or a need for public services and infrastructure.

“While the JDA has had an impact on the shape of the city as a result of its focus on urban regeneration, experience has shown that urban regeneration projects with sustained incremental upgrading have a more sustainable impact.”

Cohen also argued that the potential of cities is maximised when there is alignment and integration of investments in transport, human settlements, resilient infrastructure networks and land governance, which are the main vehicles of urban development.

“Investments in people, the economy and the environment can work together to transform the quality of life in communities,” he said.


Taffy Adler, director of the Braamfontein Urban Revitalisation Project at Wits University, spoke about the growth of the university and the impact this had had on the neighbouring Braamfontein precinct.

“Braamfontein and the university have a symbiotic relationship where both establishments feed and grow off of each other”, Adler said. “Wits University has an extraordinary impact on the community surrounding it. Historically, the precinct has grown with the school.”

Among the other speakers, master architect, artist and environmentalist Allan Schwarz entranced the audience with his presentation on the Mezimbite Forest Centre in Mozambique.

A community-based programme with an integrated sustainable design, forest management and education/training centre, Mezimbite was established by Schwarz to address deforestation in southern Africa while engaging in various fields, including environment-friendly design consultation.