Taxi Rank No 2
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SAIA Commendation Award 2014
Diepsloot is the kind of environment that requires input from the best, most courageous and inspired architects. It is not every architect who would have the patience and willingness to learn from this environment, or the humility necessary to create opportunities and bring human dignity to it, where it is most needed. The reality is that most people on earth live within conditions of informality - the reality is also that very few architects have the ability to work meaningfully within such contexts. However, it would seem that Thorsten DECKLER and Anne GRAUPNER from 26'10 south Architects are the exception to this generalisation.
The process of realising a building like this is no easy task. It is clear that the architects and the rest of the professional team and builders had to face and overcome administrative inefficiencies, political opportunism, high levels of social tension and budget constraints.
When the architects received the appointment for its upgrade, the taxi rank already had some facilities. From their appointment onwards, they faced a hazardous stop-start process and had to have delicate and protracted negotiations with various stakeholders and interested parties to bring it to completion. The architects had to re-configure the taxi rank's shed- like roof in order to allow for more daylight. They have added the linear market and a celebratory public porch on the southern side of the site, while upgrading and adding the other functions needed for the facility.
The taxi rank is at is busiest from 04:00 until 06:00 each weekday, while the market and other amenities on the site are used throughout the day. During the frequent electricity black outs, due to the general insufficient power supply to the area, the market stalls are still able to operate effectively due to the provision of fuel-fired cooking facilities. The chimneys to these have been celebrated and have become one of the distinguishing features of the project. Initially, it was also intended that these could become the support structures for advertising in order to maximise income.
With the formalisation and upgrading of the previously existing informal market that is located on the edge of the site, the architects have effectively extended the double-sided linear market that exists along Main Road. They have, in this way, positively defined the public space with the formalisation of an active edge to the road. With it, they have also created safe, well-functioning and dignified stalls for the traders. The celebratory entry to the taxi rank, the public porch, the use of colour and the trees that have been planted have given an 'address' and place-like qualities to a bleak and hard environment.
The building and spaces created by 26'10 south Architects bear witness to their ability to humble themselves in order to learn from local conditions and from international best practice. Following this approach, they have not only created a foothold for survival among those who need it most, but they have also created a good example of how to make an inspiring and dignified urban place. It would bode officialdom and other architects well to take the lessons from this example to heart.
(Paul Kotze - 2014)
Text by Thorsten Deckler
What happens when the architect is told to draw up a scheme in a week and to be on site in a month - in time for the project to be used as an electioneering tool?
What happens when the project is stopped for a year only to be continued with two separate contractors having to complete construction in 2 months?
What happens when a comprehensive advertising strategy, potentially generating R40 000/month income is never implemented because the managing agent recalls two expressions of interest because they did not follow their own internal procedures? The chimney bases are built - designed to withstand the wind loads of nonexistent billboards. Negotiations with the taxi associations over rental and maintenance delay occupation for one year.
What happens when the client cuts out the photo voltaic installation? The UPS room remains empty and the rank is plunged in dark at its busiest time from 4h00-6h00 am (due to low supply). But the fireplaces can be lit to cook breakfast.
What happens when hardly any meaningful community and user engagement takes place? The idea of a timber armature (as popularly constructed all over Diepsloot is dismissed with the words 'they will burn it'. It is realised, instead, at substantial cost in steel.
What happens when, at the 11th hour, a colour scheme is smuggled past a conservative client and professional team? The former timber columns, now saved from burning, are glowing in orange and the international media machine picks up on the 'exotic colourfulness', publishing the work unoccupied despite protestation.
The building is now occupied. It is no longer clean, pristine or very well-maintained. It is possibly not even loved as much as it could be when insufficient electricity supply just adds to the daily grind of being a trader, taxi driver or commuter negotiating a dark piece of architecture.
Lidia & Mudzuli, traders:
Nando, market user and taxi driver:
Zachariah and Hamilton, taxi owners and community members:
Vicky, taxi driver:
Blantina, taxi user, visitor from Rustenburg:
Daniel, manager and chairman of taxi rank:
Sam, young boy:
Promise, informal house owner across the street:
All truncated references not fully cited below are those of Joanna Walker's original text and cited in full in the 'Bibliography' entry of the Lexicon.
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