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Sunday, June 23, 2019


(Stakeholders at the launch of phase one of Without Walls projects)
(Pic by Illa Thompson)

The Alliance Française de Durban is re-igniting its Alliance Without Walls project, with a symbolic launch of Phase One of the project held on June 20, 2019.

The first phase is demolishing the perimeter walls around the Alliance Française de Durban’s Windermere Road property and replacing them with a walk-through art gallery called ‘The Stoep’. Step one is removing the gates and wall on Sutton Crescent, opposite the park.

In 2016, in response to innovative research on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), the Alliance Française de Durban ran a competition to challenge the city’s leading architects to Imagine a World Without Walls.  The shortlisted architects were Paul Wygers, Amanda Lead and Jeremy Steere. Paul Wygers, of Urban Solutions was appointed and the first phase of the ambitious plan he presented to transform the premises at 22 Sutton Crescent received planning permission a few weeks ago.

(Deborah Ewing:  President, and Vincent Frontczyk, director of Alliance Française de Durban. Pic by Illa Thompson)

Vincent Frontczyk, Director of the Alliance Française Durban says: “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.”

Prof Monique Marks, Director of the Urban Futures Centre at Durban University of Technology (DUT), who has been on the project team along with Prof Tinus Kruger of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) from the outset, explains the thinking behind the City Without Walls Initiative: “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 Francaise, literally break down its walls,” he adds.

President of the Alliance Française de Durban Deborah Ewing invited guests at the function on June 20 to begin the process by symbolically taking hammers to the wall. “The front of the building will then be turned into a work of art by local artists and we will redouble our efforts to raise funds to transform the rest of the wall into a unique gallery that will provide a creative and inclusive space for visitors from Durban and around the world.”