Situating the Central CityLab


By spatially locating the projects and areas of intervention, and by understanding the movement of people in and out of the city, the Central Citylab is beginning to highlight the complexities of the densification debate.  An examination of the areas of intervention in the Central City and the related tensions and trade-offs, point to fundamental questions, which are conceptual, theoretical and practical in nature. These questions form a point of entry for interrogating the planned densification of the city.


Every working day an estimated 360 000 people pour into the inner city, 120 000 using public transport and 240 000 by car. The challenge for Cape Town is to get people to live and work in the city, thereby reducing traffic congestion and the negative environmental impacts. A Compact City needs to contribute to a more sustainable development in its broadest sense, social, economic and environmental – How do we create a more compact city, yet have appropriate public space and green space?


Unanswered questions


An examination of Cape Town’s Draft Densification Strategy (2009) and Central City Development Strategy (2009), reveal an inconsistent view around the role of the Central City – Who is the city for? What are the existing spatial priorities of the Central City? Furthermore, what regulatory support structures and amendments need to be made to current standards and policies, in order to facilitate higher densities? Furthermore, how will the city monitor and administer the process?


The big question around gap housing still remains unanswered. The city recognizes the need to provide mixed income housing in the Central City, but faces many challenges such as highly competitive market forces and commercial developments.  Beyond the technical and financial challenges, what is the research agenda as far as dealing with issues of African urbanism, for the spaces of imagination, which begin to engage with multiple differences?


The diversity of questions raised seem difficult to answer without practical research. The Central Citylab methodology is to turn to concrete projects that are happening in the City, in order to understand the status quo a bit better, to understand what are the political obstacles, what are the institutional obstacles, what are the practical issues that demand our attention? It is through this process of interrogation, with Inter-disciplinary inputs from academics, practitioners, housing experts and feedback from city officials that the Central Citylab aims to provide the underlying research.