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What is the Gauteng City-Region?

This multiyear project will deeply interrogate the Gauteng City-Region as a concept, construct, political device and mode of governmentality. Envisaged as full-colour printed book in its final form, and exhibition, the project will evolve through a series of well-structured outcomes which will come together in the final printed product.

The final publication will contain a trend analysis from over five Quality of Life Surveys, guest authored pieces, GCRO research, commissioned photographs and maps. These will grapple with the social, political, economic and environmental complexities of the city-region, investigating policy decisions, governance concerns and the city-region’s future. Importantly, key pieces will locate the publication squarely within diverse global urban theory on city-regions.

The first component of this project includes the production of an exhibition at the Cities Exhibition at the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism 2017. The exhibition will be digital and showcase existing work as well as some new conceptual visualisations. The theme is ‘Shifting Borders and Building Bridges’ which explores the boundaries of the GCR and the borders within as well as the role of the GCRO in bridging government departments and local government and academia.

Borders are both material and unseen, constructed and imaginary, fixed and fluid. In recent years we have seen the continued relevance of international borders and how these affect the lives of people in different places. While political borders remain as pertinent as ever, this exhibition examines kinds of ‘urban borders’ in the context of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR).

Cities in South Africa are infamous for their divided and unequal geographies that are a legacy of the colonial and apartheid planning policies. Despite significant efforts to integrate the GCR, apartheid’s visible and invisible borders and barriers remain both in the material landscape and in the economic and social fabrics. Although the history of apartheid is particular to South Africa the inequality that the city-region faces resonates across many parts of the world.

The exhibition explores the making, shifting and bridging of urban borders through four perspectives.

The Spatial story map relays how political borders of provinces and ‘homeland’ states have been abolished with the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994, but how spatial segregation remains and recurs through other shifts have occurred in the last twenty years.

The Social story map illustrates how racist apartheid laws have re-emerged as social barriers which can manifest in the urban landscape in physical forms like gated communities.

The Resource story map shows how the broader context of the landscape and natural resources worked as barriers shaping the history of development in the city-region, and how they will also shape its future.

The Institutional story map explores how both government and academia are navigating these complexities while also encountering institutional and knowledge borders.


Alexandra Parker, Gillian Maree, Samkelisiwe Khanyile, Christina Culwick (August 2017) 'Watershed boundaries of the GCR', GCRO Map of the Month. Johannesburg: Gauteng City Region Observatory.

Alexandra Parker, Christian Hamann, Gillian Maree, Graeme Götz, Mncedisi Siteleki, Dr Ngaka Mosiane, Samkelisiwe Khanyile, Christina Culwick, Samy Katumba (2017) 'Shifting borders and building bridges', GCRO Data Visualisation. Johannesburg: Gauteng City Region Observatory.


The GCRO's Shifting borders and building bridges (Cities exhibition at Seoul Biennale) was featured in the Wits news; on Biz Community and on Architect Africa in August 2017.


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