Research projects showcased at urban conference

March 15th, 2018, Published in Articles: PositionIT

A delegation of eleven Gauteng City Region Observatory (GCRO) researchers attended the ACC International Urban Conference 2018 in Cape Town from 1 to 3 February, where they showcased their research in presentations and panel discussions.

Christina Culwick co-ordinated a two-part panel on Just Sustainability around research which explores the complexities around concurrently navigating social justice and environmental sustainability imperatives. The panel featured presentations by GCRO’s Gillian Maree, Graeme Götz and Culwick herself, along with other researchers who are part of the research collective.

Richard Ballard chaired a panel on his research project, “The Scale of Belonging”, with presentations on four case studies, including those by Christian Hamann, Ngaka Mosiane, and Luke Spiropoulos. The research explores people’s relationship to the real and perceived boundaries of space and politics. Ballard also presented a second paper on transnational urbanism on the panel “International perspective on mega-scale projects: Johannesburg, Shanghai and London”.

Transport was a key theme of the conference, and Jesse Harber discussed Johannesburg’s “Corridors of Freedom” in a panel on the political economy of transit-oriented development. Ngaka Mosiane detailed his work on Rustenburg as part of a larger project exploring the periphery of the Gauteng city-region on a panel “Living the periphery: making a living on the periphery”.

Two of the conference panels came out of the ongoing research partnership between GCRO and UCL Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (Steapp).

The first panel, “Knowledge use and decision-making for urban green infrastructure” drew on the GCRO’s ongoing research into green assets and infrastructure, and saw presentations by Carla Washbourne (UCL Steapp), and GCRO researchers Samkelisiwe Khanyile, Culwick and Maree. The second session, entitled “Shaping informed cities: urban observatories in the New Urban Agenda”, drew on an ongoing UCL Steapp/GCRO collaborative programme to catalogue and analyse activities of existing observatories with a view to understanding different operating contexts and factors for effectiveness.

During this discussion Michele Acuto and Carla Washbourne reflected on emerging research into global urban observatories. Culwick presented on GCRO as an example of such an observatory, and David Simon discussed the Mistra Urban Futures programme as another example of embedded research at the academia-policy interface.

The “Taking streets seriously” project made two presentations on streets in Gauteng. Alexandra Parker discussed public space in Killarney, and Mamokete Matjomane discussed the informal street traders of De Villiers Street.

The release of GCRO’s eighth research report, “Taking streets seriously” coincided with the conference, and 100 hard copies of it were dispensed at the conference.

Contact GCRO, Tel 011 717-7280,

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