In attempt to bring symbolic and spatial restitution to the post-apartheid city, city-makers have introduced spatial gestures of compensation within the depraved landscapes to serve as symbols of the reformed city. Although on paper, such gestures have both symbolic and functional validity, theorists question the true relevance and integrity of these grand spatial gestures as icons of imagined communities, as they tend to succumb to the image-driven boosterist architecture of the new African megacity and fail to be the injections of infectious regeneration that their makers hope them to be.
Within a destitute and degraded ‘urban void’ of Downtown Johannesburg, sits such a site: the Drill Hall, which in 2004 after a series of fires was hoped to be transformed into a ‘living museum’. The attitude towards the built fabric was highly preservationist as all fabric that could be saved was restored to its original state, yet programmatically it tried to achieve a conservationist outcome.
Some fourteen years later in 2018, the site and its
buildings remained locked in time, unable to evolve with the context and the successful conservation of the site has not be achieved, as it has since been informally appropriated into informal housing and a skate park whilst the restored fabric is falling victim to urban decay.
Therefore, in attempt to reinterpret both the notion of the grand gesture and resolve the tug of war that exists between preservation and conservation on the site, the product of this dissertation will attempt to provoke the possibilities of the site through the temporal, flexible dwelling and facilitated conditions of personal appropriation to allow for new narratives to evolve the meaning of the site. This will be done in conjunction with the integration of permanent community serving functions (legal aid and youth support), infrastructure for informal trade and an environmental micro-infrastructure which will exist as the new backbone of the site, which collectively will serve as a relevant (and conceptually evolved) gesture of compensation to the site, the people and the inner city.
Mini Dissertation (MArch (Prof))--University of Pretoria, 2019.