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30 May 2011

Post-graduate course in Architecture and Urban Planning at Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm

Lizane Louw

Just Grounds: Cape Town
Mejan Arc at the Royal Institute of Art, Stockholm


Deadline for applications: June 13, 2011

Michael Dudley
+46 8 614 40 25
+46 8 611 21 13

Royal Institute of Art
Mejan Arc/ Architecture
Box 16315
103 26 Stockholm, Sweden

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Just Grounds: Cape Town

Urban Africa

Africa is rapidly urbanizing. 40% of the continent's population is now urban, but despite Africa's extensive natural resources and strong economic growth, neither international nor local investments find their way to the cities. In post-colonial Africa the City is still consider an exception. Basic infrastructure is still lacking and urbanization is occurring primarily in the form of slums, as silent encroachments. However, African urban researchers note that the African city should not be considered simply incomplete versions of their western counterparts. Indeed, the African city is following its own route with a very different map. These cities are growing as nodes in mutually dependent networks that span over national boundaries. Their populations are in perpetual movement – constantly in search of work and possibilities. They are also very young. Half of the inhabitants that today constitute Urban Africa are under 25 years old.

Cape Town – All Inclusive?

Without the security of both physical and social infrastructure, Urban Africa will be particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and our successively dwindling resources. Solutions tend to be applied where economic resources already exist and those presently without will become even more disenfranchised. South Africa is one of Africa's strongest economies, with an abundance of natural resources; diamonds and minerals, agricultural products and a rich biological diversity. Besides all of this, South Africa has the world's largest potential for solar energy production. Since the fall of Apartheid in 1994, the country has struggled to break the consciously fragmentary built patterns imposed by its political history. This journey away from a divided country and its divided cities seems long, and in the meantime poverty and social differences become ever more entrenched.

With its 3,5 million inhabitants, Cape Town is one of South Africa's largest urban centers. The city is dramatically situated between two oceans and an impressive and rich geography and landscape. Its population is young, multicultural and engagement from grassroots movements as well as academics and practitioners include span from social to spatial issues. Nowhere is the discourse on the Right to the City more urgently apparent than here. The conditions for an inclusive future, based on equitably distributed resources, are here and now. The city begs the question – can Cape Town show the way towards a genuinely more sustainable urban Africa, or will a refusal to act keep this development from occurring?

Just Grounds and the strategy of the everyday

Many South African urban theoreticians speak of an engagement in the everyday as a path forward for the African city. In the practice of the everyday is implicit a resistance to mistaken and misdirected initiatives. In the everyday can be found impulsive sidesteps and a serendipitous dynamic that can show what urban life could be – in spite of itself. In the ongoing debate on urban ecology the question remains – what kind of life do we imagine and for whom are we creating a sustainable urban future? What urban qualities should guide us? Marc Swilling, the vocal leader for the Sustainability Institute in Stellenbosch, a suburb to Cape Town, uses the term livable urbanism to encompass his notions of a city that lives within planetary boundaries and bridges socio-economic boundaries while supporting social and ecological entrepreneurship. Can an everyday urbanism in a country with social injustice and an excess of natural resources show the way towards a resilient city?

During the past several years, Resources has conducted research in how dwindling fossil fuels, depleted natural resources and climate change are and will continue to influence our cities and our ways of life. Within the context of the series Happy Grounds, we will discuss alternative concepts of development, growth and happiness, from both a global as well as African perspective. We will investigate the term spatial justice and those theoreticians and practitioners who are working to further developed this concept. We will meet the young Africa, by looking at the city through the eyes of its children and youth. We will revisit the philosophical and architectural discussion from the late 70's which was informed by its fascination with the everyday. We will also discuss urbanism in relation to post-colonialism, post-apartheid, mobility, migration and biological diversity. Above all, we will take part of the intensive debate concerning the African city that is going on right now in Cape Town. The goal of the course is to formulate an innovative urban planning proposal for a part of Cape Town, which can contribute to its development. In addition, the proposal should contribute to an international discourse on our sustainable urban futures.

Working Partners
The educational program, Recourses is based on developing working partnerships with local actors who are engaged in the course during the year. In Cape Town, we can find a number of engaged individuals, organizations and NGOs, including African Centre for Cites/ City Lab at the University of Cape Town, Sustainability Institute, Insalda Institute and The Community Organization Resource Centre. We will meet with contemporary local architects, such as Barbara Southworth, Carin Smuts, Jo Noero, Mokena Makeka and Peter Rich, all who have been instrumental in developing a post-apartheid urban agenda and all who contribute to a lively architectural climate. Back in Sweden, we continue our work together with the Stockholm Environment Institute and Stockholm Resilience Centre, as well as the department of Biological Physics at Chalmers University. We will also work with visualization of urban data together with the help of Density Design Lab in Milan and learn methods for scenario thinking from the Belgian company, Shift'N.

The course is structured in sections each with a specific theme. We will find a foundation in relevant architectural and urban planning theories, as well as biology, philosophy, resource- and economic theory. We will investigate lifestyle patterns, innovation, systems-theory, food production in a local and global perspective, biomimicry and radical mapping. We meet architects, urban planners, systems thinkers, natural and social scientists, journalists, economists and artists in a cross-disciplinary discourse. Underlying all aspects of the course is a focus on visualization and communication.

Resources.11 consists of three consecutive day study periods (Wednesday to Friday), occurring every other week. These periods are complemented with two or three weeklong workshops, spread throughout the study year. Differing fields of study structure the year. Each field will be investigated by means of lectures and seminars. The common group project will sequentially develop in short workshops that follow throughout the course of the year. Resources.11 starts week 38, 2011 and ends week 22, 2012. Winter break is between weeks 51 and 3. A study, research and workshop trip to South Africa is scheduled for the early spring term. The course gives 60 academic credits. The cost for the study trip and reading materials is 13 000 SEK, divided into two installments. The project produced during the course of the year will be exhibited in Stockholm and subsequently in a larger context in South Africa the following fall. Those responsible for the course are professor and architect Henrietta Palmer and teacher and architect Michael Dudley. Fredric Bedoire, professor in architectural history will also participate.

Recourses.11 is looking for engaged individuals who are interested in investigating these issues and developing proposals together within a team. Applicants should be able to demonstrate design ability, or have knowledge relevant to the subject, as well as describe an idea they wish to develop pertinent to the themes presented above. You should be an architect, landscape architect, urban or regional planer, designer, engineer, or from another discipline such as; photographer, filmmaker, artist, writer or journalist – with a specific interest in architecture and urban planning issues. Applicants should have a master's degree or the equivalent. The course can also be attended as a lecture series, not participating in the group project and giving 30 academic credits. These half-time students do not participate in the group project and in those cases where their participation in the study trip is agreed upon pay actual costs (travel costs for full-time students are partly deferred by the school). Participation of at least 75% is required to receive academic credits. An application should consist of a CV, a concise written reflection on the subject for this year, a portfolio presenting relevant works as well as a passport-sized photograph of the applicant. If group projects are included in the portfolio, please provide the name of a reference person. A digital application should be made at: The portfolio should be sent as a paper copy and postmarked or left at the school no later than the 13th of June, 2011. Those accepted will be informed the 27th of June.

Additional courses, grants and economic support
As a student at Mejan Arc at the Royal Institute of Fine Arts, you are entitled to attend lectures held within the other courses at the school, including Architectural Restoration as well as Art & Architecture, in addition to those within the Fine Arts program (for more information about these courses, please see At the conclusion of each year, the school awards a number of grants, including the Palmér Stipendium, based on a project application and/or individual achievement. In the beginning of the spring term, students are encouraged to apply for grants from the Research and Development in the Arts program. These applications can be based on ideas developed during the course of the study year and that the student wishes to continue exploring during the consecutive year.

MEJAN ARC Advanced Studies in Urbanism
is a forum for post-graduate education in architecture and urban studies. MEJAN ARC investigates issues relevant for the general public and how they are connected to an architectural and urban discourse. An increasingly urban world necessitates new perspectives. By utilizing methods of research and design we explore the potential of urban environments in a rapidly changing world. MEJAN ARC offers one-year courses in three disciplines, including Architecture and Architectural Restoration, which are both full-time, as well as the part-time course Art and Architecture. The three programs share an interest in the City, but have different areas of focus. All three programs include a lecture series, study trips and common seminars. The two full-time courses are structured by project work and workshops. The goal of the School of Architecture is to engage society through the generation of relevant and tangible projects, as well as the creation of working networks that continue outside the academic realm. Projects that have their inception at the school often become independent platforms that continue to develop on their own.