Shifting borders and building bridges (GCRO Cities exhibition at Seoul Biennale)

Borders are both material and unseen, constructed and imaginary, fixed and fluid. In recent years we have seen the continued relevance of international borders and how these affect the lives of people in different places. While political borders remain as pertinent as ever, this exhibition examines different kinds of ‘urban borders’ in the context of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).

Cities in South Africa are infamous for their divided and unequal geographies - the legacy of the colonial and apartheid planning policies. Despite significant efforts to integrate the GCR, apartheid’s visible and invisible borders and barriers remain both in the material landscape and in the socio-economic fabric. Although this history is particular to South Africa, the inequality that the city-region faces is mirrored in many other parts of the world.

Four story maps

This interactive visualisation, prepared for an exhibition at the Seoul Biennale on Architecture and Urbanism, explores the making, shifting and bridging of urban borders through four perspectives: Spatial, Social, Resource and Institutional.

The Spatial story map relays how political borders of provinces and ‘homeland’ states have been abolished with the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994, but how spatial segregation remains and recurs through other shifts have occurred in the last twenty years.

The Social story map illustrates how even though racist apartheid laws have been repealed, social barriers have re-emerged in the urban landscape in physical forms like gated communities

The Resource story map shows how the broader context of the landscape and natural resources worked as barriers shaping the history of development in the city-region, and how they will also shape its future.

The Institutional story map explores how both government and academia are navigating the spatial, social and resource complexities in the GCR while also encountering institutional and knowledge borders.

Explore each of these story maps by clicking on the image blocks below.

Spatial story mapSocial story map

Institutional story mapResource story map

Two interactive visualisations

GCRO as an organisation

GCRO has arranged its project work into a number of thematic focus areas. There are seven themes that organize our applied research. Each theme is made up of a number of current and completed research projects.

Each project has a team of researchers who come from different academic and disciplinary backgrounds. Projects may have external partners in government or academia and will have different durations and outputs. Some projects are connected to other thematic areas.

Three Spheres of Government

Government in South Africa is made up of three spheres – national, provincial and local. The GCR is so large, complex and dynamic that no one government authority could possibly encompass the whole. But to address the region’s challenges and ensure that it reaches its full potential, the different parts of government must work together.

This visualisation shows the different departments across national, provincial and local municipal governments in Gauteng and South Africa. The visualisation relates this to the thematic areas of the GCRO to illustrate the potential for interdepartmental and interdisciplinary collaboration and implementation.

Different spheres have different responsibilities but also many areas of overlapping functions. This can cause complicated relationships between parts of government in each sphere. Various structures have been put in place to achieve better collaboration, from the President's Coordinating Council (PCC) where national and provincial leadership meets as a collective, to various ‘MEC-MMC Forums’, where provincial political leaders meet with counterpart Members of Mayoral Committees from local government.

Explore these interactive visualisations by clicking on the image blocks below.

GCRO organisational 3 spheres of government


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