UIA 2014 Workshop

Health and well-being in Aformal Terrains – Scenario Building in Denver, Johannesburg

Hosts: Eric Wright, Phil Astley and the Aformal Terrain Studio students, FADA, University of Johannesburg  with Alexander Opper and Thomas Chapman

This workshop, developed from the collaboration out of the UIA paper, ‘Rhizomatic Healthscapes’, supported by students from the Aformal Terrain Studio @ University of Johannesburg,  invited UIA delegates to participate in a ‘pecha kucha’ scenario building workshop.

The aim, to explore thinking about transformation of services and facilities in ‘Aformal Terrains’* within a specific informal settlement, Denver, Johannesburg.  

The task, to consider, at levels, strategic and operational, to consider how health with social care delivery can be radically changed by adopting an open approach through scenario planning techniques to give new thinking about health networks and space in aformal spatial settings

Rapid pecha kucha briefing, 4 sessions set out student reporting form the site, urban strategies, aformal terrain situating, and a case study in new respite care environments in response to TB treatment for the single homeless and informally housed in London. Contextual site briefing was uploaded onto studioATdenver blog studioATdenver.blogspot.com as the focus areas for the workshop, including; free standing structures, walled ‘neighbourhoods’ and inhabited warehouses. Participation was extended remotely using Twitter (#studioATdenverUIA), both in the room and outside the UIA, beginning to challenge the effectiveness of, and disrupt, traditional models of delivery including healthcare, shared/ social space and in-situ incremental upgrading. 

Stage 1, Delegates were asked to consider in two strategic forces for change on the site, divergent/ interruptions to the existing systems for the residents in Denver and perhaps the most important forces such as environmental upgrading, technology innovation, policy uncertainties.  Three informing scenarios were gathered and captured form the twitter feed: 1. Terrain – infrastructure stagnant, water, erosion transport, 2. Accessibility – emergency, connectivity, transport, hard right policy,3. Frustrations and Conflict – xenophobia, uniqueness, pressures of land value, policy disconnect.

Stage 2, to ‘get to grips’ with these scenarios over a time (5, 10, 20 years) dimension at an operational level to begin to understand their intervention in an aformal spatial scenario (s) and the effective options to consider. The process elicited 11 operational concepts for future consideration that could be briefed and tested by the students with residents after the UIA meeting:
1 – Community development – self organisation , 2 – Negotiate security of tenure with local authorities, 3 – Social movements – Connections with ‘the’ institutions, 4 – More residents using smart (mobile) technologies, 5 – Neighbourhood ‘security’ watch (neighbourhood circles), 6 – mapping related to awareness of, and for, justice, 7 – identify educational resource from within the community. A focus on tolerance, 8 – Inoculate and test, 9 – Hybrid response systems. What works now. What can work better/differently, 10 – Emergency responses in Denver, 11 – Neighbourhood organised care circles

Results, post discussion posited that thesuggested ‘neighbourhood circles’ of ‘supporting space’ undefined, but an intriguing articulation we subsequently used as a starting point to brief the students back on site for emergent health/social interventions. This concept was supported by Raoul Mehrotra at the UIA who also spoke of ‘a context within a context’…In Denver this would read as a series of context(s) within a context (Denver), within a context (eg Region F), within a context (Johannesburg).

The scenario building demonstrates that even in a rapid session, there is potential to create a place for dialogue; a place to first facilitate discussion on connectivity, values and relationships. From the pre briefing, delegates were able to consider how residents might begin to describe their self-ordering rules, and how the sessions build up learning capacity and the potential to provide feedback loops to supporting organizations.

Findings, an increased the opportunity to consider the value of these responses from the overarching themes that emerged from the UIA workshop. The Twitter feed, experimental, but meant we retained a record of events, in a less artificial forum could support the development of the dialogue and provided a dynamic background to prompts within the workshop space whilst allowing participants another method of contribution. The student groups have been galvanised on site to ask questions of the residents about their needs and healthcare.  The infrastructural problems in Denver may seem overwhelming so thinking about health ‘interventions’  as an adjunct to the infrastructural issues has perhaps given the group a pivot around which to describe more definite interventions  to discuss between them and the residents. Further the Studio has begun to develop early discussions with the health planners at municipal level facilitating dialogue from the student findings.

studio overview and background info

settlement area A


settlement area B


settlement area C


settlement area D


settlement area E


settlement area F


settlement area G 

settlement area H 

settlement area I 

settlement area J