The shuttle from the Gautrain Park Station to work every (week)day goes past a number of "bad buildings" in Johannesburg. Some have been abandoned, some have been hijacked - and many have slowly turned into squatter camps.
Dark City is a graduate architecture project by Hariwe, and probably the most impressive thesis document I have come across - together with an art exhibition by a number of collaborators on one particular bad building, known as "Dark City". I found out about the exhibition almost by accident - reading an old news article, and it just finished its run of 2 months today.
The photos and presentation is depressing - stories of police brutality, people living without water, electricity or sewerage services, crime, xenophobia, dangerous environments and an overwhelming amount of garbage. Through all of this, Hariwe documents the building using architecture blueprints familiar to anyone who has considered investing into a new development - except the size is far more depressing.
The thesis itself holds out for hope - that instead of demolishing the buildings, it is possible to convert them to more usable, humane, low cost housing; and that they can provide sustainability (for example through roof top gardens) and bring back hope. In a country with a shortage of housing; with massive housing back logs, this is not a bad proposition. It has after all been done before - and in Johannesburg too - but are there investors willing to do this; and are the owners who have abandoned buildings willing to participate?