Join Gary Hustwit for an in-depth discussion in this video Rio to Cape Town, part of Urbanized.
(South American music) Rio is like your wife or your mother-in-law. I mean you can say bad things about them, but you never let people say bad things about Rio.
You can use technology not only for preventing disaster, not only for security. What we're trying to do here, is how can we take care of everyday life of the people using technology. (room chatter) This operations center that we built, you got all the departments of the city there, we got a big screen with the garbage company of the city, civil defense, which is taking care of disasters, there's the social assistance there.
There's the subway, there's the trains. There's the power company, there's the gas company. You got the school system, you got the health system. I mean you got all that in the big screen, bigger than NASA that's what I like. It's something that you can use to really make departments work together. Let me give you an example. If you see the power grid, that there is a lack of energy in a certain area of the city, you can connect straight to all the hospitals and the schools there and get the city ready.
With information you can get, with the changes you can make, you can really change everyday life of the city. When you go to the favelas, the big, big problem that we face is taking care of the security issue. They don't have big roads inside the favelas. There are always narrow streets, dark spaces. And obviously that's bad for security, so when you put good lights on the streets, open, big spaces for squares where people can meet. You change completely the security aspect of the place.
Khayelitsha's a very interesting story. It's one of the youngest townships in South Africa. It was built in the 1980s. It offered the latest example of the then local authority trying to concentrate a growing African black population in the city at the periphery of the city. It was specifically developed as a dormitory residential area with no economic base. No real industry, economy, nothing like that.
The people were required to travel out of the area to gain access to jobs. And it was characterized by very poor health conditions, and very, very high violent crime rates. What is kind of interesting about Khayelitsha is the storm water systems, that were designed by engineering sort of standards which create large, vast tracts of open, underutilized land that just become crime hotspots. The idea was to transform the very unsafe areas that form part of the storm water system, into something that is more positive.
Those spaces were used by gangsters who attack the communities when they go to [work], when they pass by, people have all been mugged. People's stuff were taken by the thugs. And when VPUU was introduced to the community by the KDF and the city, that make a big change. VPUU is violence prevention through urban upgading. The project looks at those problems and creates interventions, and it might not just be buildings.
It could be occupying space, but it could also be something as simple as lighting or paving. The first one that we started working on was the pedestrian walkway that extended from the Khayelitsha railway station, across the suburb of Harare, towards the informal settlement. Historically the way urban design has happened in South Africa is along what is seen as major routes. And that's where all the infrastructure happened. The different tack that VPUU took was they actually spoke with the community, which meant that the decision as to where pedestrian routes went wasn't the normative position, but more where people were walking.
Which were those desire lines that cut their way through the settlement. The communities, you empower them. It's not imposition, but it's engagement. It's what you call [unintelligible] development. It's not top-down, it's a bottom-up. The community said they wanted safe pedestrian routes. What makes spaces unsafe in Khayelitsha or anywhere at night, is when there's not good lighting and when the surface isn't smooth and easy to walk on.
You can easily trip or someone can easily hide. The idea is that you have really good lighting and space. At night when they go out, there's this cover, which makes the space safer. The [unintelligible] idea of this linkage and this route was every 500 meters you would have a lookout point or a lookout tower. Part of the whole strategy plan was to create a series of these active boxes, specifically along the pedestrian walkway to provide places of safety.
So if for instance, you are walking along that pedestrian route, and you feel unsafe for whatever reason, you can always see where the next active box is and you know that you can go there and they'll be safe. They're designed in such a way to provide an identity and also to provide a vertical element that one could see as one was walking along. We've used red in this case, so they're very clearly visible during the day. And then they downlit at night time, so they light boxes at night.
They're occupied 24/7, so there's always a care taken, somebody always involved. And they form little points where you can also have economic activity and just coming together of community. What's also very lacking in the area, is a place for children to play. So that was another aspect that we worked into the urban design. Because people are moving through it, it's constantly observed.
So it's fairly safe. With all this upgrading, people are high priority and they want to be part of it. The murder rate has come down by approximately 40 percent in the area since VPUU started in this area. It's like the sun lighting in a dark place. And even though that there's still a lot of things that VPUU needs to put in Khayelitsha, the stride that they've taken keeps people of Khayelitsha a hope of life.
Parents now are starting to see that their kids are safer now because there's a place for them where they come and play. The kids are playing, and the kids are safe. ♪ Music N Lights (remix) by Hip Hop Pantsula ♪ When you have extreme conditions like that, the answer's not for government to sort of float in and to say what the solution is and to in a way impose it on people.
But that paradoxically, even though the needs are obvious, a thing becomes even more important to systematically involve people who live these realities, In trying to figure out what's the most strategic way to respond.
Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren't created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact on improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.
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