Future Foreshore
1:200 cardboard model of Cape Town's foreshore, produced by Gaelen Pinnock

The University of Cape Town (UCT) asked me in 2013 to curate an exhibition, to open 2014, showcasing the work students in the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment had carried out for the project 'Future Foreshore'. Architecture, Urban Design, Landscape Architecture, Electrical, Civil Engineering and Construction and Economic Management students had worked on analysing and making proposals for the redevelopment of Cape Town's foreshore area, an area of land reclaimed from the sea in the 1950s. Land at the foot of the central business district was filled in, and elevated freeways run across it in the mania for the automobile that characterised the era - in some kind of biblical parallel, while Robert Moses was running freeways up and down Manhattan, Solomon Morris was doing the same thing in Cape Town. You can read an in depth analysis of the development of the foreshore freeways here: 'Building the Foreshore Freeways: The politics of a freeway artefact' by Lisa Kane (2011).

We took a creative approach to engaging the public with students' work, with areas of the exhibition including 'City as Stage', which viewed the city and urban design as a kind of theatre, a platform upon which visions are performed, as well the room 'Building Blocks', which aimed to give exhibition visitors tools to understand the current state of the foreshore and to recognise the people who inhabit it. Exhibits included a giant scale model of the foreshore, executed by UCT architecture graduate Gaelen Pinnock, whose photographs of informal dwellings under the freeways were also displayed. Illustrator and comic artist Archie Birch produced a specially commissioned comic panel sequence showing the development of the foreshore from precolonial times, through today, and into an imagined future.

The project was in partnership with the City of Cape Town's body Transport for Cape Town, and was a World Design Capital 2014 project. The exhibition was staged at Cape Town's historic City Hall, which looks out onto the foreshore from close to the original shoreline, in April 2014. Thanks to Vanessa Watson for her direction of the project, to Bella Knemeyer for her invaluable assistance, and to all the students and staff of UCT who helped and took part.

You can download the text of an article by Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment Vanessa Watson about the project, originally published in the Cape Times on 8 April 2014, here.

'Future Foreshore' comic by Archie Birch