African Cities are not declared dead!

Aamena Desai is a senior urban designer in Arup's Cities team in Johannesburg. We chat about key African projects Arup is involved in, how Covid-19 is impacting projects and clients, lessons from African cities from international projects, technologies that will move cities forward, rapid urbanisation, her worst Covid-19 nightmare, African cities' biggest challenge, positive outlooks and her vision for future cities.

Ask how you can partner with Future Cities Africa

Key Takeaways

Key African projects Arup is involved in

  • Help cities improve urban resilience in the long term with the effects of Climate Change and especially now in short term with shock and uncertainty of Covid-19.
  • Focus on addressing new factors like public health and economic resilience.
  • Rapidly urbanising regions, especially in East Africa.
  • How cities can peruse inclusive development where basic services of cities don’t exist.

Is this the end of rapid urbanisation?

  • Perhaps for the short term. Major drivers of urbabisation is still there: people seeking opportunities, the difficulties of rural life, lifting out of poverty and moving into consumption patterns.

Covid-19 impact on projects and clients

  • Uncertainty from clients and a reluctance to invest in new projects or accelerate current projects in conventional sectors.
  • Private clients on adaptive reuse: Some clients are looking at how to use existing assets in different ways.
  • Public clients are broadening the idea of resilience.

Lessons from international projects

  • Cities across the world are responding in creative ways. African cities are in a good position as we have faced many uncertain events in the past.
  • We can learn from the experiences of other cities by drawing form innovation using technologies and data to improve city service delivery and quality of life.

Technologies that will move cities forward

  • Data collection can assist city planning in the future to create adaptive and resilient cities to these shocks. The ability to collect accurate data and draw out lesson for urban planning and design.
  • Opportunities for novel tech solutions e.g freight transport to reduce points of human contact. Tech can also improve public health & safety.
  • Arup Asia office developed an App used in airports to initially measure footfall, it has now been coupled with thermal image scanning. This reduces the need for a staff member to take passenger temperature.
  • Opportunities exist on using existing technologies in new ways.

Aamena’s vision for future cities.

  • Cities must work on and find innovative expressions of city density.
  • Find ways to design interventions, tools and mechanisms to improve access to open space and improve ventilation that in turn can improve public health.

The biggest challenge for African cities

  • African cities must find more innovative ways of ‘city making’ that responds to accelerated urbanisation.
  • Technology and the digital economy can play a big role.

Positive outlooks for future city stakeholders

  • Before we declare that cities are dead, let’s take a step back and look at how we can improve sustainability over the long term instead of making short term decisions. Stakeholders can reduce risk by phasing projects differently and applying adaptive design principles can secure projects that they’ve invested in.

About Aamena and Arup
Aamena is a senior urban designer in Arup’s Cities team in Johannesburg.  She grew up in Durban and studied and worked in design studios in Cape Town, before joining Arup in 2015.  She has worked on multi-disciplinary Arup projects across Africa, centered on improving urban quality of life in developing world cities. She completed her Masters in Urban Design from the University of Cape Town in 2014, and graduated in Architecture in 2006, from UKZN.
Aamena’s work has evolved from technical design in its early stages to include, more strategic planning, research focusing on the future of cities, and urban design strategies, that consider the spatial, economic, governance, and institutional structures of cities towards delivering impactful and implementable urban infrastructure projects.

Arup’s first office opened in South Africa in 1954 by Jack Zunz and Michael Lewis. Since then, we have continued to showcase our expertise in design, planning, and execution in the built environment across Africa; whilst upholding our commitment to developing sustainable communities. Our African Cities research ties in with on-the-ground urbanisation projects, enabling us to offer total design solutions. These include integrated building design, transport, and logistics planning; large infrastructure; property solutions; and energy strategies.

Our South African teams work closely with other Arup teams worldwide, giving clients access to the full range of our global skills and experience. We deliver global knowledge, locally.

Johannesburg

Shaping the city: Since Arup opened its Johannesburg office doors in 1954, our consulting engineering teams have shaped the iconic Jo’burg skyline with projects like the Telkom Tower. We’ve contributed to the growth of our region through our conceptual design, master planning and project management of large buildings, infrastructure, and transport projects.

Innovative design: We remain at the forefront of innovation, using the latest software and technology such as virtual reality coordination on Twinsaver’s state of the art manufacturing plant. Our market-leading parametric capability enabled projects like the twisting PwC Tower and the geometrically intricate façade of The MARC in Sandton.

Trusted advisor: Our teams have been instrumental in developing policies that provide the framework for property development around public transport interchanges including the Tshwane precinct and becoming the Independent Certifier for Gautrain, South Africa's first rapid rail system.”

Web: https://www.arup.com/offices/south-africa/johannesburg

Join our digital discussions

We'll send you the lastest podcasts to your inbox.

Share this discussion

Share Aamena Desai - African Cities are not declared dead! on Linkedin Share Aamena Desai - African Cities are not declared dead! on Facebook Compose a Tweet about Aamena Desai - African Cities are not declared dead! on Twitter Share Aamena Desai - African Cities are not declared dead! via Whatsapp

You might also be interested in some of our other discussions

Podcast By Tony Lee Luen Len about Impacts of Covid-19 in Mauritius and the important role of technology
Impacts of Covid-19 in Mauritius and the important role of technology

Tony Lee is a partner at Ecosis Ltd in Mauritius. He is an expert for the advocacy platform, United for Smart and Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) and for the "digital transformation of cities" working group of UN Habitat. We chat about challenges and opportunities in Mauritius, how technologies will play a critical role in the future, impacts of Covid-19, confirmed beliefs and moving in to the future.

Play Now
Podcast By Zukiswa Mandlana about Innovation at the City of Cape Town
Innovation at the City of Cape Town

Zukiswa Mandlana is Director for Organisational Effectiveness and Innovation at the City of Cape Town. We discuss the latest innovations at the City of Cape Town, the innovation process they adopted, how they measure success, key milestones reached, overcoming challenges and how the Pandemic has influenced how they innovate.

Play Now
Podcast By Omeshnee Naidoo about Digital Projects and the Role of Technology at the City of Cape Town
Digital Projects and the Role of Technology at the City of Cape Town

Omeshnee Naidoo is Director of Information Systems and Technology at City of Cape Town. She’s the CIO at the City. We explore digital projects at the City of Cape Town, technology’s role in improving service delivery and quality of life, the importance of real-time service delivery, tech investments, the collaboration between municipalities, private-public sector collaboration, and her vision of the city in 2040.

Play Now
Podcast By Dion Chang about Trends in the Circular Economy and Urbanisation
Trends in the Circular Economy and Urbanisation

Dion Chang is the Founder of Flux Trends. He’s a business strategist, trends columnist and professional cage rattler. We explore trends in the circular economy, case studies, the sharing economy, Generation Z, the great real estate reshuffle, urban migration and the future of work.

Play Now
Podcast By Frank Cumming about Bellville Future City and Local Spatial Development Framework Masterplan
Bellville Future City and Local Spatial Development Framework Masterplan

Frank Cumming is Director for Urban Catalytic Investments at the City of Cape Town. We discuss city mega projects, the Bellville Future City and Local Spatial Development Framework masterplan, the role of partnerships, and more.

Play Now

Get the latest podcast delivered to your inbox

Don’t miss a discussion, sign up and be the first to know.