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Thursday, September 1, 2016


(Winner Paul Wijgers with his associate Trishana Naidu with their winning presentation. Their work engages with the edges in their vision to reconfigure suburbia. Pic by Publicity Matters)

The Alliance Française de Durban has announced the architect chosen to re-imagine their premises to embrace the innovative “Without Walls” initiative.

The winning architect is Paul Wijgers: Director of Urban Solutions.

In response to innovative research, The Alliance Française de Durban has run a competition to challenge the city’s leading architects to Imagine a World Without Walls – putting up their hand for theirs to be the pioneer venue to be reconfigured.

Architects were invited to present their vision of this philosophy. The three architects who were shortlisted are: winner Paul Wijgers; runner-up Amanda Lead and third place went to Jeremy Steere.

Three brilliant presentations were considered on August 10. After extensive deliberation by the panel comprising Vincent Frontczyk: Director Alliance Française de Durban; Prof Monique Marks from the Durban University of Technology, Urban Futures Centre; Deborah Ewing: Chairperson: Alliance Française de Durban; Themi Venturas: board member of Alliance Française de Durban; and Prof Theo Andrews: board member of Alliance Française de Durban / Executive Dean: Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment DUT – the panel have chosen one architect to take the project forward.

The project, which was initiated at the end of 2014, has been formally endorsed by Brian Jackson from Blue Security. The competition criteria and process was guided by American architect Andrew Caruso supported by Marion Guerreiro: a civil engineer student at the Urban Futures Centre. A valuable resource person throughout the process was Tinus Kruger from CSIR.

“The bravely-initiated project to break down existing concrete security walls is an effort to create more open visible integrated and engaged public spaces. This initiative is part of a broader Durban-wide project entitled Imagining a City Without Walls to promote new ideas and design practice that will positively impact on safety and security; social cohesion; community engagement; urban design and improved neighbourliness,” explained Vincent Frontczyk: Director Alliance Française Durban.

Prof Marks explained: “It started with a hunch. For many years I have been completely overwhelmed by the high walls that South African suburbanites have created around their dwellings. They have always struck me as confronting, offensive and aesthetically unappealing. But, more than this, I couldn’t shake the feeling that these walls, which were supposedly created to make people safer, were actually having the opposite effect. As a criminologist by training, I’ve worked with police officers and security guards over many years. So I reached out to a member of the Durban Metropolitan Police, Chris Overall. This marked the start of a journey that has taken us through very different suburbs and very different ways of thinking about security – and that will see the Durban chapter of a global organisation, Alliance Française, literally break down its walls.”

The next phase is for Alliance Française de Durban together with the selected architect to engage with the organisation’s board, the city, neighbours – including Sutton Park - and appropriate stakeholders.

Thereafter a comprehensive fund raising and awareness creating programme will be put in place to create the necessary funds to bring the design to live.