Adverse conditions in the Merebank area and possible urban design interventions.
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While, many communities around South Africa have been affected by apartheid planning, some were left worse off than others. Apartheid planning followed a distinct socio-political and economic programme, as well as a particular development approach. Such an approach placed little emphasis on man and the environment (Iyer, 1995). One of the primary principles of the apartheid policy was to racially segregate population groups. In most cases, it created built environments or living spaces that were unsupportive of resident communities. Iyer (1995) suggests that the South African city is not only a result of apartheid policy, but also a product of a modernist development mentality, and reflects the importation of associated planning models and ideals. Modernist planning is premised on technocratic and utilitarian ideals. According to Iyer (1995: 19), such models, which are “based on efficiency, the motor vehicle, engineering and maintenance standards, spatial segregation of land uses, rigid zoning, and so on, have produced environments that lack human quality, expression and identity” (Iyer 1995: 19). The built environment is expected to “provide its users with an essentially democratic setting, enriching their opportunities by maximising the degree of choice available to them” (Bentley & Alcock, 1985: 9). In other words, the built environment needs to be a living space that is responsive to the community it serves. A responsive environment is an environment that allows people to enrich their lives. It creates positive and livable living spaces. Urban design is an approach to design that seeks to establish responsive environments. Urban design interventions may be used to improve the many adverse conditions created by apartheid policy and the modernist way of thinking. The study area in this research, Merebank, is situated approximately 15 kilometres south of the city of Durban and is one of the oldest Indian residential areas in KwaZulu-Natal.See Map 1. Merebank is one of the suburbs particularly affected by the laws of apartheid and modernist planning. It is a highly controversial area having many urban design faults. The aim of this dissertation is to analyse the study area, examining the planning and design problems that negatively affect the area, and to explore possible design interventions that can be used to counteract or improve these conditions.
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