Planning the Quotidian Cape Town

Snippets from a reflection on the epistemology of planning for Cape Town’s streets

In reflection, it is vital to consider the assumptions, and the resultant perceived realities, that we create around space; in this instance Adderely.

For example, if we were to retain and perpetuate the assumption of Adderley as a busy, albeit “dead” or “problematic” space for place making, then this becomes the epistemological foundation perpetuated through our approaches to planning, designing and interventionism in the space.

This would be particularly unjust and an unethical representation of Adderley, for it would involve designing and planning for a conception of the street that does not necessarily exist in practice for the urbanite majority who make frequent use of the space out of necessity.

As a simple ethnography of a small transect of Adderley has begun to unfold after a couple of weeks, the street is enlivened with many unfolding fleeting and ephemeral moments of sociability, kinship, contested relationships and spontaneous creativity. In other words, the space is full of the very matter of “place”.

Yet, because these moments are so ephemeral and spontaneous — perhaps due to the nature of organic, collaborative place and meaning making in a highly fluid, bustling and fast paced urban environment — they may seem invisible or non-existent from the privileged position of those discussing, mapping and plotting the future of the street from behind a desk or through bias-affirming survey data.

Because we are not in the position to see or experience it, does not mean this urban texture and “cityness” does not exist.

The texture and nuance of Adderley is indeed present in it’s own context shaped form, and deserves to be properly and justly acknowledged, understood and accounted for in urban planning and design schema. In other words, we should be careful not to design and plan for OUR reality of Adderley, but rather for the multitude of everyday, working class, transient and pedestrian realities as they exist on the street and not in our minds. These are realities that are very likely to exist beyond our own, limited “professional” and positional understandings of the inner workings of urban quotidian moments.

Let us be ethical down to the very core to our urban work, and to question the assumptions that form the foundation of how we know what we know at the intersection of personal and professional perspective; in other words, our own epistemes.