Innovative architecture inspires urban revival

2017_03-07 Regent (8)_wwwImpressed by the transformation of a deluge of seedy, inner city buildings into a first-class educational hub, Durban’s deputy mayor, Fawzia  Peer has instructed a host of senior city officials to ‘think out of the box’ in taking this urban regeneration process further. 

Under discussion is the development of the Samora Machel educational precinct near Durban’s City Hall. Five years ago, the area was full of drug dens, brothels and derelict old buildings run by slumlords. The precinct now houses Mancosa’s new Graduate School of Business and Regent Business School’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, complete with state-of-the art lecture theatres, libraries, cafeterias and a recently opened gallery.

Last week, Peer took a delegation of senior city officials on a tour of the area, also meeting up with senior directors of Mancosa and Regent, as well as Yusuf Patel of Architects Collaborative.

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Roving Reporter, Zamo Phungula, contemplates how world class architectural design incorporating public art is breathing new life into formerly derelict buildings that now form part of the Samora Machel education precinct near Durban’s City Hall.

Having spent five years in transforming eight interlinking buildings into a modern-day campus, Patel said it was about time to look at what could happen outside.

In an immaculate fourth-floor office overlooking Durban harbour and Samora Machel Street, Mancosa’s founding principal, Professor Yusuf Karodia, said while Mancosa had “put its money where its mouth is”, the municipality had done nothing in the streets below.

“In the mornings, there is a lot of dirt down there. We clean it up. The only activity we see from the city, is traffic police issuing parking fines to our students,” said Karodia.

Adopting a more conciliatory approach, Regent’s managing director, Ahmed Shaikh, invited the city to support a long-term vision for the precinct.

“We have invested about R500 million in high quality educational infrastructure, using innovative architectural design and art to create a new atmosphere and ethos. In partnering with the city, there is a lot more we could do.”

Among ideas mooted was pedestrianizing a section of Samora Machel Street to enable the introduction of weekend and night markets and the creation of a second-hand book fair specialising in affordable text books, uniforms and educational surplus.

In the discussions arising, Peer briefed senior officials from several departments, including the city’s business support unit, Metro Police and the eThekwini Transport Authority, to research the feasibility of these ideas, including road closures for special events.

She said of immediate concern was the safety of growing numbers of students who now crossed the road between Mancosa and Regent Business School.

The issue of students being fined when attending classes and writing exams also needed attention. “We ticket them, but there is limited space for parking, and as students they don’t have money. We must make a plan,” said Peer.

“This is now an educational hub and we need to look at what we, as the city, can do to enhance it, make it safer, pleasant, more friendly,” said Peer. – Roving Reporters

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