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Landscapes of Memory

This year Unit 15X’s theme - Memory in Public Spaces – has been investigating a series of post-apartheid memorial places in the urban context of Gauteng to record what has been designed, how they function in the surrounding communities and their durability as human-made objects in space. The aim of Unit 15X 2022 is to explore context transformative design concepts and design decisions through a methodology that raises questions about the design, complexity, performance, and contextual response and responsibility of sites of memorialisation.

Memorial and places of memory are the physical manifestations of the society-in-transform concept. It seeks to heal from the trauma of past injustices of apartheid and its evil system of segregation and subjugation of black people. One of the aims of the 1995 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) in South Africa was to create sites that would memorialise the struggle against apartheid by the creation of physical structures and spaces in the landscape, both urban and rural, where people could gather to remember, to grieve, commemorate and celebrate, as a process of healing, finding closure and  moving forward in the multicultural society.

Unit 15X has been exploring and emphasising questions of complexity, performance, responsiveness, and diversity of sites of memorials as a methodology that prevents one from falling into the trap of understanding heritage and memorialisation in ways that will produce a one-sided sense of heritage as cultural difference, race, and bounded identity (Hlongwane and Ndlovu: 2019). Unit 15X’s motivation for exploring physical sites of memorial and restitution is driven by the notion that they are perhaps the least appreciated and studied spaces and areas of social justice (Light and Young: 2015).

In 2022 Unit 15X has been studying existing memorials, buildings, monuments, and public spaces to upraise various kinds of memorials that are in existence and we challenge students to propose alternative/new memorial designs dedicated to unknown and unacknowledged individuals who contributed to the struggle against apartheid, by having critical ‘dialogues’ with the past.

The aim is to raise critical conversations in the public, academy, and indeed the design discipline of the role of the memorial in contemporary African society.

Dr. Finzi Saidi
Unit Leader
I embrace a teaching philosophy that explores teaching design disciplines as a complex interaction of three determinants: society, students, and disciplinary knowledge.

My teaching interest and practice have been  shifting the contours of design disciplines in ways that broaden the scope of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design relevant to our African context.

My recent teaching and research experiments have explored themes that endeavour to broaden architectural practice by tackling wider but interrelated design topics, which at their core, address social, cultural, political, and environmental issues that are usually regarded as peripheral to mainstream architectural curricula and practice.

Mathebe Aphane
Unit Leader
I am excited about exploring architectural knowledge that furthers our understanding of
Africa’s cultures, societies, and environments.

Having taught in three South African architecture schools has emboldened me to seek alternative ways of teaching architecture. My approach as an educator builds on students’ self-motivation and interests for spatial transformation in multicultural societies.

My research interests include studying the relationship black township residents have with
space. I utilise transformative pedagogies and methodologies to imagine the new politics of
space creation in Africa and find alternative spatial production methods.

Bonolo Masango
Unit Tutor
Bonolo Masango is a Candidate Architect who completed her masters at the Graduate School
of Architecture (GSA) at The University of Johannesburg (UJ) in 2019.

Her master’s Thesis titled The Anti-Atlas, and the AntiArchive revealed her interest in storytelling, which reflect the social, political, and cultural views of disadvantaged groups of indigenous African people. Her architectural ambitions seek to integrate multiple tales, memories, and meanings in the making of architecture.

She is currently working at MMA Design Studio, an award-winning architectural design studio
that engages in the African landscape through a contemporary interpretation of indigenous knowledge and cultural practices.

Nomalanga Mahlangu
Unit Tutor
Nomalanga Mahlangu is an artist and candidate architect from Kwa-Ndebele, Mpumalanga. She
holds a Bachelor of Architectural Studies from the University of Witwatersrand and a Master
of Architecture from the Graduate School of Architecture (U.J).

Her master’s thesis focused on interrogating the need for permanent architecture in African cities to raise questions about fixed mega structures
and argue that future cities should be flexible, adaptable, and responsive. In turn, she is creating an urban environment structured for change.

She is currently an assistant lecturer at the University of Johannesburg in the Department of Architecture. She was also an undergraduate design tutor at the Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria.


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