It is undeniable that we occupy tumultuous and uncertain times in South Africa. A brief glance at our morning headlines is sharp reassurance of this reality. So much so, that uncertainty has become a certainty. We are left with two choices, embrace or challenge it. I’m in favour of the ‘embrace’. The embrace allows us to work with current forces and come to terms with a reality that is perpetually evolving. This warrants agility, clarity and a certain make-do attitude. The shear magnitude of the economic, political and social concerns is overwhelming – and any attempt to alter it is a poor spend of precious resources. Furthermore, the attributes that are required in working with uncertainty are more productive in the long run, as I’m inclined to believe the pending world order to closer resemble the chaos of South Africa than predictability of Switzerland in the not too distant future! Subsequently, this uncertainty becomes a gift. A gift of accelerated learning, critical thinking and responsiveness. Or is it?
As an architect, I’m surprised to witness how our profession so boldly executes infrastructures with such poor intellectual foundations. Our profession directs little effort to understanding the site, the problem or the impact of our interventions. In a context of great uncertainty, we risk producing works of increased irrelevance and redundancy. It is for this very fact that those tasked with the blunt instruments to shape our built-environment in such bold and dramatic ways, pay more attention to nuances on the ground to help inform their outcomes to better serve its purpose. An obvious means of informing the built-environment is through careful, empirical understanding of the ground conditions. With hard evidence and a cross-disciplinary approach, both understanding and implementation find healthy bed-partners to navigate the uncertainty in a most productive and impactful manner. In so doing, we move one step closer to productively working certainly with our uncertainty.
Thireshen Govender, SLF Board member
UrbanWorks Architecture & Urbanism
Gradate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg