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An architectural response to social cohesion : towards the design of a cultural interchange center in Durban.

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Social cohesion has become an important construct in post-Apartheid South African society (Department of Art and Culture, 2012). But its roots lie beyond the history and borders of South Africa. This dissertation will discuss how international concepts of social cohesion first emerged from the literature of social capital and were later implemented as strategies to promote unity within neighborhood communities. Thereafter, this dissertation discusses how this concept was adopted by the department of Art and Culture as part of National Development Plan for 2030, and was consequently linked to the concept of Nation Building (Palmary, 2015: 32). A review of recent literature and speeches on social cohesion in South Africa further explore that if the strategy were fully facilitated by all aspects of society, it could unite South Africa’s disintegrated nation. During this review, however, specific focus is to be placed on the fact that very little research exists to show how the concept can be used in an architectural response – particularly within a South African context. Initially, this dissertation argues that a society currently built on racial division, economic inequality and classism, needs active interventions which feed into the lived experiences of society. Thereafter, utilizing the current literature, several case studies, precedent studies and key interviews, this dissertation highlight that an architectural response instigated by social cohesion is one that shapes the interface between diverse groups. The discussion ultimately illustrates that providing a platform for a range of possibilities for the co-existence of a heterogenic society through economic empowerment and cultural acknowledgment (Gri, 2010: 862) can only be fully realized through the built environment. Integrated with this discussion, a proposed method will set the discourse of both the primary and secondary research into three components: social, economic and the built environment components enhancing INTERACTION, INTERCHANGE and INTEGRATION, respectively. This discussion will be further facilitated through the incorporation of the concepts of spatial solidarity, the theory of sense of place, and human perception and semiology. The research will culminate in the design of a Cultural Interchange Center in Durban. Based on a comprehensive review of the recent literature, several precedent studies and case studies, and qualitative interviews with informed participants, the design process for this Cultural Interchange Center will serve as a reaction to the defined social problems faced by South Africa. The end design consequentially becomes a center of cultural and skills interchange generating social cohesion through economic empowerment – thereby fully expressing the concept of social cohesion (and its inherent roots) in the built form.


Master of Architecture. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2016.


Theses - Architecture.