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Democracy and design


In 2011, 2014 Tutu Fellow Mokena Makeka spoke at a TEDx event in Mfuleni township about the relationship between democracy and design. His perspective as an architect revealed to him how lot of problems are caused by the way design is used to separate and affect people.

Mokena is the Director of Makeka Design Lab an international award-winning Architecture practice. He said he noticed how areas of Cape Town that were more vulnerable to floods were inhabited by poorer people, while the ones with great views had homes for more privileged ones. This was not just about colonialism or apartheid, he said.  It was about the conscious choices of design in society.

The term design in the context of Mokena’s speech doesn’t determine that part of it which makes the city more beautiful. Instead, he says poorer areas often can do with better design and are under designed.  A lack of street signs has implications for neighbourhood safety.   Mokena points out that ideas are very important in making the city better in lots of ways. It is not enough just to have infrastructure - infrastructure should also be well designed.  Frequently the difference between well designed spaces versus poorly designed spaces are not significantly different in cost.

He advises everyone to be more critical in their views of the environment they live in, and not accept mediocrity and recognize the relevance of design. Mokena underlines that democracy can be practiced by being involved in how communities are built and demanding more. This will then affect how design can be an attitude to understand the world and insist on improving it.

You can view his talk below:

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Tuesday, 28 September 2021

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