Transformation in South Africa, particularly among the architectural community, has been slow, but change is coming

South Africa, which is currently in the midst of major political upheaval and change, is also being engaged in discussions about the implications of an education system that is being criticized as “elitist” and “colonial” by students enrolled at the country’s universities who are part of the #Rhodemustfall, #Feesmustfall and #endoutsourcing movements. They are demanding, among other things, an update to the colonial syllabus, an end to high university fees and the instatement of rules reducing the outsourcing of university staff. But, aside from the impact on the students lives, South Africans are now asking what the discussions arising from these movements mean for their own lives and careers.

In an interesting article on media news website BizCommunity.com architect Amira Osman asks what architects can learn from the #Rhodesmustfall movement. In the passionate article she says, “I believe the protests by students, and on many campuses workers, are an invitation for us to start asking some hard questions about our own disciplines, their broader political implications and the role of universities in society.”

“Transformation” Osman says, “is a word that crops up often in South Africa and has been one of the key narratives of the protests. It refers to creating a more equitable society that reflects different races, genders and socioeconomic groups. From her professional perspective, Osman cites the following areas that transformation has necessitated changes:

  • thinking and practice;
  • education, content and methods;
  • regulatory bodies and professional institutes;
  • greater representation to ensure that the profession, and those who teach it – better depict the country’s demographics; and, finally,
  • spatial transformation towards equity and access to opportunity in South Africa’s cities.

It’s a great read that asks important questions about what a contemporary South African architectural culture can do to bring about real, meaningful and long-lasting change. Hopefully it will motivate more people to ask the same questions about their own practices.

Read Osman’s original article here.