22 August 2011 - “Probably the most significant trend we are seeing emerge in terms of master planning today is its ability to contribute to the creation of sustainable cities,” believes Aurecon urban and regional planner Jako Strydom.
“There is a trend to merge the visual and engineering components of master planning with the socio-economic challenges which surface wherever people are involved in community living.” He goes on to acknowledge that we need to build structures that look good, and are easy to service, but at the same time, the way in which we plan these structures needs to address pertinent issues facing communities. “Much more is required of modern spaces today,” believes Strydom. “They are required to, for example, include possibilities for economic opportunities, as well as education and other social and civic uses.”
Aurecon believes in a holistic approach to master planning. This includes the integration of many different aspects of land-use in the master plans they undertake. One such example of this kind of planning is that of Caxila III in Ondjiva, Angola.
Because much of Angola's infrastructure was destroyed during a 27-year civil war which ended in 2002, the country is currently undergoing major reconstruction, including roads, schools, hospitals and houses. Part of the reconstruction efforts involve the building of formal housing for destitute citizens currently living in what is commonly known as ‘museques’, which the government calls ‘tented cities’.
The Caxila III development is intended to replace one of these villages and, once complete, will house over 15 000 people (in 2 500 housing units), including a large group of war veterans. Aurecon was contracted for the concept development and urban design, engineering services design and site supervision for this project. This included ‘packaging’ the site for development. “From the onset, we wanted to ensure that the master plan for the area included more than just houses,” says Strydom. He goes on to say that the foundation of Aurecon’s master plan was based on the philosophy of sustainability and empowerment.
“To solve the fact that most of most inhabitants of the tented city have no means of earning an income, Aurecon included in their plan mini agricultural plots, or allotments, around the perimeter of the entire development. “Not only will this help each family feed themselves,” says Strydom, “But it will also enable these same families to grow surplus produce which they can sell to neighboring communities for much needed funds, facilitating a process of local economic development.” In addition, commercial space, has also been included.
A further element of ensuring food security within the community includes the planting of fruit trees amongst the residential houses. These will not only add aesthetic value, but can be harvested by the community, with the potential for a co-op that could create jobs for community members.
Caxila III’s schools have also been cleverly designed to serve a dual-purpose: they will fulfill the role of educational centers during the week, and recreational locations for football as basketball over weekends. “Because schools are often a lot better maintained by communities than recreational areas, combining the two facilities results in major benefits, not only reducing operation and maintenance costs, but also in terms of ensuring these community assets remain in working order for years to come,” says Strydom. The crèches and surrounding play areas have been designed with this same principle in mind.
Besides residential, agricultural, education and recreational areas, the master plan for Caxila III also includes areas for ‘passive recreation’ in the form of small ‘pocket gardens’. These patches of grass will provide spaces for reflection and less intensive outdoor activities between houses. “These spaces are particularly important for young children,” explains Strydom. “Creating places for young children to interact allows them to engage in passive play with their peers, and to learn to explore their world in a safe environment.”
Some 500 of Caxila III’s houses have already been built, with Aurecon providing full site supervision, while completion of the entire precinct is scheduled for the end of this year.
“Ultimately, we set out to achieve an example of the value good master planning is able to contribute,” says Strydom. “We feel we have achieved this, and that our plan will help solve some of the multiple socio-economic challenges facing similar communities in Angola.”
“Importantly, this same philosophy isn’t only applicable to Angola, or to low income communities,” says Strydom. “What’s critically important is that, regardless of location, a holistic approach to master planning is followed. This will allow the area in which communities live continue to deliver value long after the last brick is laid,” he concludes.