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Building the Public City: the Fak’ugesi chapter

Building the Public City is a project run by the City of Johannesburg that tries to solve public space challenges like disconnected communities, insecurity, and lack of civic participation. The project will propose ways to better integrate design and participation processes in Johannesburg. One of the prioritised areas is Braamfontein, a vibrant part of the central city. The area has poor public spaces in terms of both quantity and quality, and exemplifies many of the challenges in Johannesburg.

UN-Habitat provides technical and financial support to the strategic interventions as part of Building the Public City, for example, through the Block By Block methodology which uses Minecraft as a tool for people who are neither computer-savvy nor knowledgeable in architecture or city planning to draft ideas for how to improve public spaces.

We have previously written about how we together with City of Johannesburg, UN-Habitat, and Wits University explored how mixed reality could work as an additional component in the Block by Block process (read more here).

Now, there is also a video available that presents this first experimental Fak’ugesi workshop, as part of the broader Building the Public City context!

As the video shows, the workshop experience clearly excited both the participants and the project partners. This use of emerging digital technologies was perceived to be at the very cutting edge of inviting collaboration with a great potential for future urban planning and design, and community engagements.

According to Cristo Boates, Acting CEO at Johannesburg Development Agency, there is an opportunity to mainstream this kind of co-creation, public participation and urban communication to get public ownership of cities: “This is really the kind of thing I will be looking at in the future to make sure that we can bring it into our planning process”.

UN-Habitat and the City of Johannesburg will now work together to physically implement some of the ideas that have come out of this innovative community participation process. Work is expected to be completed in 2018.

Written by Marcus Nyberg

Marcus explores and conceptualises how new technologies might enable innovate ways to address societal challenges.

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