Mainstreaming informality and access to land through collaborative design and teaching of aspects of a responsive planning curriculum at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Access to urban land and resources and the pervasiveness of informality are perhaps the main cross-cutting features defining contemporary urbanism in the South, where the urbanisation of poverty is not only acute but where there is an increasing peripheralisation of the urban poor further from economic opportunities. A critical challenge is the emergence and persistence of informality and particularly the growth of informal settlements and the informal economy, and the nature of official responses to this growing phenomenon. Planning curricula and practices have been reactive, at best, to these challenges, and routinely tended to wish these realities away or treat them as temporary problems, at least in the short and medium term. The centrality of access to land is not necessarily the scarcity of land in itself, but what the land makes possible as the resource base, and therefore what benefits competing actors are able to derive from accessing well-located land in a city. Against the backdrop of the regional context of urban informality and the historical dynamics of colonial planning legacies, this article argues that the curricula of planning schools should focus on local substantive contexts, and case studies, as well as on developing deeper and more sustained collaborations with local actors in implementing locally responsive curricula. The choice of thematic issues is strategic: informality and access to land are two critical issues of substance while collaborative design and teaching is a process issue, undergirding the value basis for/of planning. The latter, collaborative curriculum design and teaching, refers to a more deliberative engagement with context, substance and actors in an African planning environment in curriculum development, design, implementation as well as sourcing and developing learning materials that speak
to local contexts. Planning education is an important lever in shifting into this needed strategic ‘turn’ in planning practices that demand a more sophisticated toolkit comprising of a balance of strategic, technical and tactical assemblage of tools.
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