Redefining the public transport industry through architectural identity : a proposed transport interchange for the Umhlanga new town precinct.
Tom Steer, senior associate on the Gautrain Architects Joint Venture states that "When people arrive in cities with well-organised transport networks, they breathe a sigh of relief. The identity of the transport system forms an integral part of the city's identity and the way it is perceived internationally." (Theunissen, 2009: 22) Mokena Makeka of Makeka Design Laboratory agrees saying "The role that transport facilities play in the creation of an identity for both the industry itself and the city is essential, and one that is often underplayed in this country" (Theunissen, 2009: 22). In South Africa today, the public transport industry is perceived negatively by a large portion of the population. This perception is largely rooted in the troubled history of South Africa with Apartheid playing a major role in the formulation of such perceptions. In addition, issues surrounding lack of government funding, supporting infrastructure, safety, reliability, comfort, accessibility and a general state of disrepair hinder the progress within the system. This has resulted in a system that is severely underutilized by the middle to high income population, creating overcrowding on roads through the use of private motor vehicles, and the unsustainable nature of South Africa's transport system as a whole. This study focuses on the role of identity in architecture, exploring the concept of architecture as a catalytic instrument in the creation, and identification of identity, and how this can be applied to transform the public transport industry as a whole. The intention is to identify and explain the important principles and elements that inform the success of a transport interchange, and how a building can redeem itself and create a new identity. It is clear through the study that infrastructure is required in the public transport industry. This dissertation looks at the design of a modal interchange facility which seeks to appeal to a wider socio-economic group, and in turn create a more sustainable system as a whole. One must acknowledge that for any significant change to occur, more than just architecture is required, as architecture in isolation, cannot address all the issues. Identity is formulated through a number of elements, not only built form. The approach will have to be a holistic one and a broad remodelling of the current system is required. Modal interchanges do however form the backbone to this process and act as a vital catalyst in the transformation of the industry.
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