Statism and the East Cape Taxi Protest

(this piece first appeared in The Herald on 15 June 2016, under the “Title SA freedom being circumscribed)

 

My 1997 Toyota is currently propped up on bricks in my backyard. You see, I’m waiting for my small time mechanic “guy” to find a specific part that is being reconditioned by his small time parts supply “guy”.  I have though still managed to get around town regardless of this challenge and regardless of this week’s province wide taxi protest. This, partly thanks to Uber and partly thanks to the luck that I do not rank in the number of the struggling poor compelled to live in the far flung periphery of our sprawling metro. So, as I have zipped around town as a passenger in the last few days I have had a little more time to follow what my “friends” are saying on Facebook. Much of my feed is clogged up with pictures of cats sleeping in laundry baskets or heart wrenching messages about how not sharing this picture of a goat means that I don’t care about people dying of cancer. There was, though, some interesting talk about what people think of the taxi protest. Most of the talk was about the fear of the protest getting violent or how unfair it was that students could not get to class to write their exams.  Yes, I feel for the students. I feel for the mall bound housewives’ stuck in traffic jams. But, to be honest, I’m more interested in what this protest is really about; and as far as I can understand, it’s really is about the delay in the provincial government’s issuing of “operating licenses”. Because, you see, the state has decided that it is criminal for a hardworking person to make an honest living transporting people from A to B without their permission. Really!? Perhaps there is something that I am not getting here? But my real worry is that so many of us are completely content with the idea that the state somehow has the right to tell us what we can and cannot do and that we need their “permission” to do an honest day’s work. This state bullying is not just in the transport sector, it’s all over the economy!
 I work as an Architect. In this industry the state has decided that they do not trust the judgment of those who chose to do business with me. I am therefor required to remain “licensed” by the state. For an Architect to work without a license is a criminal offence. I go to jail! I mean, can we not be trusted as ordinary citizens to choose for ourselves who to employ to give us a lift to work or to draw up plans for the extensions to our patio?  Do we really need armies of faceless civil servants employed with our tax money in Pretoria or Bhisho to help us with this level of decision making? Perhaps the reason we tolerate this intrusion is because we have not paused to think about it?
 In the late eighties many of my friends, like me, were caught up with the idea of “freedom” and of “power to the people”. It seems though that as time has passed that ideal has evolved rather to us being content with changing the complexion of the state rather that questioning whether it was ever necessary for the state to take away our individual freedoms in the first place. The Apartheid state was unapologetic in taking away freedoms in the pursuit of “Law and Order”. At that time, citizens felt it was absolutely OK that there would be laws stopping us from selling flowers on pavements, brewing Umqomboti  in the backyard or playing guitar for loose coins at the bus stop. It was just understood that the state was in control and it was the job of each and every citizen to “stay out of trouble”. But somehow we have allowed that apartheid mindset to move with us 20 years and beyond into the “free” South Africa. The obsession with “statism” seems to be held equally by political parties to the left and the right.  The political debate is generally only about what category of additional state control can be forced upon its citizens.
Since apartheid times, the excuse used for state bullying has moved from “Law and Order” and “Suppression of Communism” to our new regime’s talk of “Health and Safety” and “Transformation”. We need though to wake up the very real possibility that our freedoms are being taken away for no reason other than to allow huge monopolies to step in and take control of the country. Putting in place “licensing procedures” on top of layers and layers of compliance requirements makes it more and more difficult for any but larger and larger institutions and corporations to keep up. State capture is not a single event, not just the Guptas, not just one corrupt politician. It is a tendency that has come with us since before we agreed in 1994 that freedom is what each and every citizen deserves and is entitled to.

 

So I urge each and every one of us, from today on,  to free our minds and to become openly and vocally disgusted whenever we encounter the smallest attempt on the part of the state to tell us that we are not free.  As long as we are not harming anyone, it should not be any of their damn business!

Help Little guy with Direct Action

(This piece first appeared in the Weekend Post on 31 October 2015)
I drive a 1997 Toyota. It has 476 000 kilometres on the clock. I drive this old car mainly to embarrass my children, but also because I know that renewing my car every two or three years has a hugely destructive impact on our planet. In fact, a recent report in the Guardian  points out that the amount of carbon that it takes to make a car (its “embodied emissions”) is very likely to be greater that the total exhaust pipe emissions over its lifetime. What the Guardian is trying to say is that my clapped out old rust bucket is better for the planet than a brand new super-efficient, high tech Hybrid!
My 1997 Toyota, when it was still young

I take the health of our planet very seriously. You and I know however that the truth about our country, and many others like it, is that the most pressing threat is not the levels of carbon in the atmosphere, not the depletion of the ozone layer, not even the desperate and sad story of the Rhino. No, the most pressing threat to our society is poverty and exploitation. Poverty is a breeding ground for disease, ignorance, corruption and crime. Quite simply, we are all doomed if we are not able to build a stable economy where each and every one of us feels that it is worthwhile to make our best effort every day to improve the health and welfare of ourselves and of our families. What I want to talk about today though, is what it is we do about this situation. You see, I am inspired and impressed by the direct action students across the country have taken in dealing with tuition fees. Inspired; because students are showing us that it is far more effective to take direct action than it is to put our trust in party politics. The students of 2015 have shown us, that if we want to get something done, we must get off our backsides and take direct action. The students of 2015 focussed on the issue. They set aside party politics; they set aside complexion and economic status. They focused on one issue and they were very effective.

But, “Direct Action” is not only about blocking traffic and singing songs. “Direct Action” is about our choices. It’s about what I produce and about what I consume. It’s about how I choose to act. So, it was no less that an act of revolutionary defiance that I had my car repaired on my front lawn this Saturday while my neighbours were indoors watching the rugby. (Yes, the old crock breaks down from time to time!) You see, I could have opted to have the work done by the recommended, massive Japanese owned multinational corporation, but instead I opted for “Direct Action” and chose to employ a trusted, loyal and brilliant small time mechanic to repair the broken starter motor. It cost me a lot less. He earned very good money. It’s a “win-win” situation. No massive corporation, no CEO salary, no marketing budget and TV ads, just a small time “guy” with his box of tools on my lawn. I do the same when I need bicycle repairs, carpenter, plumber, electrician, tailor or plumber. It’s the right thing to do.
You may be surprised to hear of the good work that the Metro is doing to support small business.  In fact, all municipal construction projects now require that 25% of the work is done by Small Medium and Micro Enterprises. Believe me, this is really painful to people like me, who are called upon from time to time to design and manage these projects. There is a heap of complicated paperwork involved and it really is a lot easier to get the work done where your contractor is listed on the JSE. The point is though, that the Metro is being responsible and is leading the way in this action. My appeal is that each of us follows this lead. That each of us, in our businesses and families make a commitment to allocate a portion of our annual spend to emerging businesses. (Perhaps 10% may be easier to achieve initially.) But even at those levels, by direct action, we will be able to make a massive and lasting dent on poverty.
What I am proposing is that each of us builds “bridges” between those of us who have emerged from poverty and those of us that are making the effort to do so. It really is a two way street. If you are working to emerge from poverty, make it easy for those that want to trade with you. Answer your phone. Arrive on time. Do what you promise. For those of you that are trading with those emerging from poverty; yes, it does take more effort. You will need to search a little harder to find the service you are looking for. You will need to check the references. You will need to pay promptly. But that is the Direct Action that we can take. Consumers may complain that there are not enough emerging businesses to address the most pressing needs, but we must trust that these will emerge if there is good money on offer. Emerging businesses may complain that there are not enough customers, but we must trust that these will emerge when we have good product to offer.
Political parties cannot do it for us. The future is in our hands and direct action is the tool we will use to build that future. Start today!

Drop the Mindless Controls

(This piece first appeared in The Herald on 14 August 2015)
I took a drive out to the countryside this morning. The rolling green pasture and forest  to the west of Port Elizabeth is an incredibly beautiful an peaceful place and today I had good reason to drive out this way, rather than through Walmer, to my office in Central.  You see, as I write this, Walmer is completely closed down by large groups of angry people disrupting traffic with burning barricades. To make matters worse, thieves and thugs are taking advantage of the opportunity to carry out smash and grab attacks on motorists stuck in the traffic jam.  It’s not pretty.
Photo: Litha Hewitt-Coleman

My drive out toward Colleen Glen takes me past the Georgiou Hotel. Some of you may have seen it. It’s a sprawling , gaudy complex along Kragga Kamma road. You can’t miss it with its vulgar fleet of white stretch limos parked outside enticing the aspirational classes to indulge in some expensive massage or just generally pretend to be The Kardashians for a few hours. No I don’t really like kitsch and pretentious places that much. They are not to my taste. But the fact is that the Georgiou’s, whom I have not yet met, have gotten off their backsides and invested big money in the region. They have created jobs. They are attracting visitors to our city and generally contributing to the economy. Those of you have been following the story of the Georgious (front page of The Herald on 13 August 2015) would know though that our “system” has just ordered this massive investment demolished.

I am not able to find fault with the judge who ruled in this matter. I am not able to find fault with the municipal officials or with the neighbours who may or may not have objected. All of the individuals who have worked to crush this initiative have just been “doing their job”. All of these people have been working within the framework of the legislation laid down by our constitutional empowered and democratically elected parliament. But I do find fault with the system that we have designed that is fully capable of standing in the way of ordinary citizens creating jobs and building the economy with their own money on their own land.
It is clear to me that the angry people who have today shut down Walmer are angry and frustrated because “the system” is not working for them. The sad truth is that the economy does not value them highly enough to employ them gainfully. Yes, the angry residents of Gqebera will express specific grievances against the housing delivery process or against the lack of free electricity, but these are the details that obscure the sad reality that these angry people are too poor to look after themselves.
I am not arguing for a second that we will solve all our cities problems by allowing the Georgious to continue running their controversial Hotel, but I am very concerned that a minefield of mindless land use controls are stifling billions of rands worth of property development.  I am not arguing that, by removing these, we will create the kind of economy that will absorb the poor and desperate of Walmer Township. In fact, I don’t know of what plethora of mindless controls may be destroying jobs and slowing the economy in other industries.  But I do know about property and I do know about land and I can tell you right now that our legislators have it in their power to make all the changes needed to unblock this part of our struggling economy. Will it be a complicated knot for our legislators to unravel? Absolutely! But we are living in a country where the super duper complicated knot of Apartheid was undone. Our leaders in 1994 had a strong, unwavering political will do undo that knot. In fact the political will to disband the Scorpions after the 2007 Polokwane conference was so strong and unwavering that it took only a matter of months for legislators to draft and approve legislation that very quickly made the Scorpions an curious relic of our democracy’s short history.
But please, let’s not descend into political or ideological debate about this matter. I am not arguing against the system we currently have that defends the poor from the homelessness, hunger and disease that results from poverty. I am saying that the state must do its bit. My appeal rather is that, at the highest levels of leadership in this country, we need to prioritise the removal of any and all unnecessary controls and restrictions on economic activity. Sure, we need to have laws that ensure that the environment (including people in it) is protected from harm. But that’s it! Any other control on the economy is a luxury we just can afford right now. Any other control on the economy is an insult to the poor and desperate people of Walmer Township and others trapped in poverty across the length and breadth of this beautiful country.

Are we there yet?

(this piece first appeared in The Herald on 24 December 2014)
Perhaps as you read this you have reached your holiday destination? You have sped along the freeways or braved the airport terminal. You are where you want to be. Because, it is at this time of the year when many of us try to be somewhere else. We try to be where we are not normally. At the first chance we get, when we are released by our bosses for a few days or when we get a little extra cash, we escape, we run away, we go somewhere else. “Why is this?”, I asked my wife as we sipped Australian wine and chomped Paraguayan peanuts on our air Malaysia flight to Buenos Aires some time back. Can it be that the physical and spatial reality that we have built for ourselves is so intolerable that the only thing that keeps us there is that we don’t have enough time or money to leave it behind? No, this can surely not be the case. But even when we look a little closer, even at those times  of the year when we are not on holiday, still we find this intense drive to be in a different place. Driven by the idea that the different place is better. Our cities are living testimony to this obsession. Streets, roads, highways, overpasses, underpasses, airports, railway stations, IPTS lanes parking areas all built at huge expense and at massive cost to the environment to be sure that we can get as quickly as we can from where we are now to where we are not. Stopping along the way, is controlled, frowned upon or downright illegal depending where you are trying to get to. We see it also in the things we purchase and consume. It is not good enough to have ordinary butter, it must be Irish butter, our olive oil comes from Argentina, Portugal or Greece, our cars from Korea and our phones form China.  The other day I bought spring onions imported from Kenya. I kid you not…Spring Onions! Are we discontented? Are we displeased with this place, our place and the things that come from our place? No, I don’t think so at all. But I do think, as individuals, we are weak, we are without centre, we are easily manipulated and easily swayed by institutions and corporations that will make money for themselves in exchange for our freedom and for our time.
How much of our tax money is used to fund roads, bridges, harbours and runways? How much of our monthly salary goes to paying for cars, petrol and repairs. How many bright minds in our economy go to working in the motor industry, petrol industry, tyre fitment centres, vehicle finance and vehicle insurance? All collaborating and conspiring to build the machines and the system that make it efficient and effortless to get you to be somewhere else.  Imagine the extra cash we would have if we did not need to pay for all of this year in and year out. We are fortunate of course because we don’t have to imagine car free towns and cities, we can actually visit them and observe for ourselves (or rather just Google them and save the cost of the flight ticket). There are many, many examples of kind and caring societies that have managing the car and taking back the city’s streets. Quebec, Venice, Curitiba and Stone Town are beautiful examples of how this can be done in such a way that these places become a delight for residents and visitors.  We don’t have to imagine cities that grow their own food we only need to look to the Urban Agriculture of Mumbai, New York and especially Havana where 90% of the city’s fresh produce come from local urban farms and gardens and where more than 200,000 Cubans work urban agriculture sector. We don’t have to imagine a city that provides more than 90% of its energy needs from renewable resources, we need only to look to Reykyavik in Iceland.
 But my appeal is not only that we allow ourselves to imagine a city with fewer cars, less pollution  and less imports,  but also that we begin to imaging a city that we are happy to live in, happy to work in and happy to spend time in. My appeal is that we begin to imagine a city that attempts not to dream up new products that we can manufacture and ship across the ocean, but rather cities that make responsible use of their land, their water their sunlight and forests to feed themselves, cloth themselves and house themselves.  Perhaps this requires a mind-set though in which we begin to understand that we are not casual observers of the cities and towns we live in, but rather that we are active participants, actively creating the shape and form of our cities by the way in which we allow our lives to play out in them and by the way in which we choose to spend our money in them. Or will we remain trapped in the idea that the solution will come from somewhere else, that our clothing will come from China, that our electricity from Eskom in Mpumalanga, our food by refrigerated truck from Cape Town and that the only way we could navigate our city is cars running on Saudi fuel.
But wait, I can’t be chatting for too long, I have got to get back to the all-important task of basting my Brazilian Christmas Turkey.

Who will champion PE’s ICC?

(this piece first appeared my regularish column in the The Herald on 9 September 2014)
I was fortunate to, last month, spend a week in Durban. I was one of four thousand five hundred delegates from around the world that attended the 25th World Architecture Congress. It really was a great event with great speakers, great exhibitions and great and inspiring debates in the corridors and coffee bars that make conferences like these worthwhile.  Yes, my mind was on the papers and presentations, but maybe, even more than this my mind was on the city of Durban and the International Convention Centre, where this fantastic event was being hosted.
As I was shuttled from the distant airport or as I booked into my beachfront hotel or enjoyed a steak for supper, I was asking myself: “What does Durban offer the conference goer that Port Elizabeth does not?”  I was asking myself “What gave the people of Durban the confidence to build the International Convention Centre, where we in Port Elizabeth have failed to build ours?”
Because many of us remember how, before the World Cup came around, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality was all set to build our own International Convention Centre on our own beachfront. All the studies had been done by the world’s leading thinkers on these matters and showed that there is probably no other investment our city could make that could attract such a significant amount of new visitors to our region as an International Convention Centre. And not just any old visitors, but big spending business people, who, wherever they go around the world, seem to burn money before, during and after the conference on hotel accommodation, restaurant meals shopping and touring. The amount of new jobs, new opportunities, new rates and new taxes that was predicted would have been generated by this project is actually quite staggering.
It is all so sad therefore, that at the precise moment when our city seemed poised to push the big “GO” button on our own very own ICC, that  Sepp Blatter announced to the world in 2006 that South Africa would be hosting the Fifa 2010 World Cup. From that day on everyone went crazy. Any plan, any idea, any vision and any project that did not, in some way, support the World Cup was shelved and forgotten. So with the passage of time, people now forget that the plan for our ICC was not shelved because it was a bad idea,it was shelved because the World Cup got in the way.
Back to the streets of Durban and my Hotel on the beachfront. Yes, Durban’s beachfront is nice, but not nearly as nice as Port Elizabeth’s. The Durban beachfront is actually decidedly down market and positively shabby. It seems that the whole “upmarket” part of what was the beachfront has upped and moved off to the North Coast, to Umhlanga, to Belito and to Salt Rock. I don t know the places that well, but I do know that PE’s beachfront still contains its upmarket restaurants, hotels and apartments. It does this gracefully, while still accommodating ordinary people that are unable to spend large amounts of money. PE has cleaner beaches, our sand has a better colour and the skies are crisper. Port Elizabeth has a better beachfront. Fullstop!
In the evenings after the lectures, exhibitions and talks, my wife and I would visit Durban’s Florida Street. It’s a restaurant zone about 10 minutes taxi drive from the ICC. It’s nice, with a good range of restaurants, bars, antique shops and art galleries. To be honest though, our own Stanley Street is better. Stanley Street offers a wider range and has a much better “street vibe” and is distinct by being nestled in a uniquely preserved heritage precinct that is Central and Richmond Hill.
So, I come to ask myself : “What it is that is standing in the way of Port Elizabeth becoming a world class conference destination?” We really do have an offer that can out-compete Durban.  We have all the key ingredients to make ourselves into a conference city, that can be better than Durban and, importantly, we have the rare opportunity to locate an ICC on the beachfront. Imagine being able to step out of the conference and see the waves, smell the sea and check out the talent along a public promenade back to your beachfront hotel or your fancy restaurant. Colleagues, our city has it all. All except an International Convention Centre. Yes, I know our friends at the Boardwalk Casino have tried to convince us that what they have built at their new hotel is the same thing. While we must all understand that the casino bosses were well motivated to convince that gaming board that what they were building would save the city from building an ICC, the truth is that their conference venue is nice and it’s better than what they had before, but just does not do the trick. It just does not have the scale required to attract the kind of conferences envisaged by the city prior to 2006.
But all is not gloomy, because we are very fortunate to have in our city many very highly paid and skilled public leaders. They can be found in our Development Corporations, Development Agencies, National Departments, Provincial Departments and Municipal Directorates. (Remember, an ICC is a public investment, requiring taxpayer’s money.) So my challenge to the clever and powerful people of this city is: Which one of these individuals in these powerful institutions will step up to the plate?
This project needs a champion.
Who will it be?

Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.

Well today is Heritage Day, but is so wet here that I cant bring myself to make a braai. Its quite interesting actually that the idea of having a braai on Heritage day has caught on. Because, if I were to question people I meet in South Africa everyday and ask them about their heritage, they will most often speak about their specific national, tribal or language identity. In some cases the individual may also have some kind of clan or family heritage that they like to speak about. Heritage, for so many of us has been about trying to answer the question “How are you different from other people?” Well I am not sure that’s the only way to think of it. There are so many things that we in fact have as a common Heritage. That’s why I like the idea of “Braai” day, because no matter who you are, your ancestors at some stage cooked meat over an open fire. This is an in and inescapable truth and a comforting ritual that we are all still drawn to in some way. We are all drawn to music, we are all drawn to conversation and laughter and we are all drawn to being outside and breathing fresh air. This is our common heritage and this is what we should be celebrating. In my life these are the things that I celebrate. The minuscule and scientific differences between us are not of such a great fascination to me. Rather I see as  academic, the differences between Irish Whiskey and Scotch Whiskey, I see as academic the differences between Rooseterkoek and I’rostile. I see as academic the difference between Pot Roast Chicken and Umleqwa or Umqa and Pap.

I would also argue that it is our common heritage to interact with each other in a civilised way in order to exchange with each other goods and services, In fact, on our way out to the farm this morning Hlubi and I stopped in at the Lake Farm Centre for Intellectually Challenged Adults. They were having their annual fair. Unfortunately a little washed out, but there were still enough people to form a queue at the coffee and cake table and to buy out the boerewors rolls. We huddled indoors looking through the bric-a-brac or choosing the fresh fruit and veg on sale from local farms. It just came to me how different and pleasant this experience of trade is. It feels honest. It feels caring. Dealing with ordinary pleasant people like you and me. Not sexy, Not Flashy. Just ordinary and pleasant.So different from the malls and superstores where I am constantly on my guard, un-relaxed, conscious that this big huge business, is a very clever machine and it is trying its best to drain my wallet and suck my blood. There is no relaxing in such an environment.
But at Lake Farm this morning I wondered: “Is the act of buying and selling our daily needs in a pleasant and civilised environment which we own and control not a common Heritage that we should reclaim for ourselves?”. Really, its only in the last 50 years or so that the act of consuming has been turned in to massive industry that it is. Can you think of a shopping mall that even existed in the seventies? I cant, but maybe there was one somewhere far away. The point is that Heritage is something that has come a long way from the past and belongs to us. We need to defend against those gifts being taken away from us. The corporations taking those gifts away from us are mindless and soulless. I don’t mean this as an insult. It is an observation. Remember, while corporations were all at some stage founded by people, they are not people, they are code, like a computer virus, a piece of programming. They employ humans yes, but they are not human. Corporations are machines and they are out of control. They have no “off”switch. Any single human who tries to switch off Walmart or Macdonalds will be ejected by the machine. Discarded, disciplined, imprisoned…
Am I digressing?
Is it not our heritage to have clean water and breathable air? Is it not our heritage to have clean food, free toxic commercial chemicals? Is it not our heritage to be free from toil and drudgery? Yes, I know some will say that it is also our heritage to be riddled with lepracy and dying from bubonic plague, But have the scare mongers not been too successful in convincing us all that we have had to accept drudgery, toil and environmental collapse in order to achieve the technological advances that have brought us the anti-biotic?
No, I think we can confidently lay claim to a heritage of freedom. We are more knowledgeable now as a species than we have ever been before. If freedom is the freedom from drudgery, poverty and environmental collapse, then yes, it can be achieved if we set to it as a project, as if we had to get a man on the moon or build a Hadron Collider or rid Iraq of Saddam Hussain. It can be done.
Freedom is our Heritage. It belongs to us.

ECIA Chair slates ‘too big to fail’ developments

This piece appeared on the mype.co.za website on 6 September 2014. It captures some of my views on the city and the profession at the moment.

ECIA Chair slates ‘too big to fail’ developments



The past two years have seen the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects’ (ECIA) take on a higher level of advocacy and engage more actively with the public, business and government to educate and share the power and joy of the art of architecture; and on how design can be used for good.

?ECIA President, Tim Hewitt-Coleman says, “The city is its buildings; and the city is the spaces between its buildings. We must work hard to develop a dialog about the ‘Art of Architecture’. A critical dialogue that helps us all see what it is that we like, what we don’t like and what we would like to see our own cities and towns become.”
“I continue to be astounded at how architects in our region manage to achieve such excellent buildings against significant odds, something we must consider a major achievement. There are many of these and we have taken the time to build an exhibition of outstanding design currently on display at the Athenaeum.”
Hewitt-Coleman is adamant that architects have a crucial role to play in protecting excellence. “We are in a desperate fight to defend the tradition of excellence in the built environment against a recent irrational and completely ill-considered attempt to buy the services of an architect on the basis of ‘cheapest is best’,” he said.
“The public sector, spending tax payers’ money, is the number one culprit in this mindlessness. We call upon the public to assist us in this fight, by demanding excellent buildings, excellent parks and excellent spaces. Architects in our region are ready to provide these services.”
The celebration of excellence has been an on-going call to action of the current ECIA committee, which has been in place since 2012. Today a new committee was also elected to carry to mantle forward building on recent achievements.
The ECIA has made significant inroads in involving the profession and public more actively in the design process and engaging them in debate around the way urban spaces are shaped.
“The inaugural Urban Assembly was hosted in October 2013 presenting an ambitious collection of regular ECIA events and a series of new public events, including the popular Archi Race and the prestigious Milde McWilliams Memorial lecture given by the inspirational Luyanda Mpahlwa of Design Space Africa,” said Debbie Wintermeyer, ECIA committee member.
In April 2014 the ECIA also hosted an exhibition at the Athenaeum which showcased competition design entries for two major projects at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the design of the new NMMU Alumni building, allowing the profession and public to engage with the idea of the architectural competition as a method of procurement. The ECIA also promoted awareness of the Union of Architects World Conference inDurban in July.
Hewitt-Coleman said the new ECIA committee must remain focussed on what he sees as the “needs” of the profession and the built environment: Clarity, education, training and ethics: “It was a joy to serve with this committee over the last two years. To be an architect is to be a member of a very old profession that pre-dates Roman, Greek and Egyptian civilisations. Those of us who are asked to care for this profession in our specific corner of time and place, do so out of a deep sense of gratitude to the generations on architects who shaped our tradition.”
Recently the Eastern Cape has seen innovation temper local design, with the construction of green buildings which are less expensive to heat and cool, use less energy for lighting and are generally more comfortable to live and work in. Many of the projects in region are leading the way nationally.
However this is not the norm.  “For the large part, our cities a terrible sprawling dust raps of poverty and desperation. While much of this is understandable because of our history of apartheid city planning, what is happening right now in 2014, in architecture and city building is completely inexcusable.
“I don’t just mean the mindless rows of matchbox houses sprawling over the hills, but also the megalomaniacal big capital shopping centre monster way outside of our city to the west and in all other directions of the compass where cheap land can be found to build ‘too big to fail’ monuments to our system’s uncaring arrogance,” Hewitt-Coleman said, adding that architects everywhere are calling for a “human face” to the planning of buildings and cities.
“Architects are being called upon to step forward, out of the shadows, and claim the space needed to design and plan the cities of our future. We are slowly and tentatively developing the courage to do what it takes to wrestle this space back.”
Reflecting on 30 years of a changing architectural landscape – which is shaping and reconstituting modern South African cities – the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects’ (ECIA) latest exhibition, Excellence in Architecture: 1983-2013, celebrates how the region has morphed through architectural intervention.
The ECIA exhibition opened on Friday 5 September, and runs through to 12 September in the Athenaeum.