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Brook Street Market, Durban


Area based contribution towards managing the informal economy for iTRUMP (inner Thekwini Regeneration and Urban Management Programme), eThekwini Municipality Durban 2001-2010

Project Architects: Architects Collaborative cc
Narrative: Richard Dobson, Asiye eTafuleni

BACKGROUND The project illustrates the phased development of an urban scale, roofed informal economy trading “mall” that was initiated as a joint venture with the Local Authority, through iTRUMP. The approach was by the Badsha Peer Mazaar Society, who proposed the erection of a permanent roof structure over the portion of Brook Street Central adjacent to their Saint’s Mazaar [shrine] for the dual use of their veneration ceremonies and the daily informal trade already existent in the same space. The initial project has subsequently extended to eight, almost annual, development phases where the roof has been extended to now shelter the entire length of Brook Street Central [approximately 200 m] to which traders’ specific infrastructure has been added. The Project concept has evolved interactively from phase to phase, so is also demonstrative of the attributes of an area based presence in translating daily observation into responsive design and ultimately, infrastructure. The area based presence has also contributed to the maintenance of a strong vision which is necessary to “carry” phased development.

LOCATION The Project is located in Brook Street Central, directly between the West Street Cemetery and the eastern edge of the Berea Station. The area is a melting pot of cultural history: The cemetery is the oldest in Durban [opened in 1850] and contains Christian, Muslim and Jewish graves. The Muslim section is currently the most actively used. The Berea Station was relocated in the apartheid era and was conceived as a segregated facility ie. with racially exclusive platforms and dedicated circulation routes. The construction of the new Station deliberately managed the access of Black people into the inner city, as it was the only elevated crossing over the rail corridor connecting the inner city with metro wide public transport routes. This reinforced the circulatory significance of Brook Street as the pedestrian distribution point into the inner city districts. The presence of informal traders was a consequence of this heavy pedestrian traffic. Periodically, Muslim funeral processions pass through the area en route from the Grey Street Mosque to the cemetery.

INTERVENTION In its infancy the Project represented a unique joint venture between the Local Authority [iTRUMP] and the Badsha Peeer Mazaar Society, supporting a long standing cultural and religious practice. The Mazaar Society’s approach to iTRUMP gave credence to the possibility of extending the roof along the full extent of Brook Street Central. Although there was no initial financial commitment from either party to fund any subsequent phases [beyond the Society’s first phase] the architectural concept and urban scale anticipated this possibility, hence the now appropriate architectural expression and the functioning of the space as an informal economy trading “mall”. Equally, the urban space and roof has facilitated the unconstrained expansion of the Badsha Peer veneration and provides responsive accommodation for the celebration’s programme.

PROCESS Until the Society’s formal approach to iTRUMP with the proposal to roof a portion of Brook Street
Central, the interaction between the Society and the informal traders’ street committee was based on customary understandings and public spirited co-operation. As the veneration function expanded, along with the density of trading, this interaction became harder to manage and progressively the ITSBO [Informal trade and Small Business Opportunity] area manager was approached to assist with the Society / trader preparatory arrangements. A form of social, economic and spatial threshold had been reached

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