Photography by:
  • Mark Momberg & Wikus Jordaan & Skhumbuzo Mtshali

Conceptualising the Gauteng City-Region (2013)

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'Conceptualising the Gauteng City-Region’ was a cross-cutting project which interfaced with all the work undertaken on the GCRO’s research agenda. A questioning of the concept of the city-region was the basic starting point of this project. Its main interest lay in critically unpacking the 'multiple footprints' of the Gauteng City-Region (GCR) - the many different ways the idea of a city-region could be understood, and therefore the many spatial extents it could be conceived as having.

The Gauteng City-Region has no physical reality as such. It is not an actual territorially-defined space with administrative boundaries or a designated budget. Rather it is a construct which can be (and has been) subjectively conceptualised from the perspective of multiple actors and interests in the space. Currently the concept of a city-region has been mobilized as a central organising principle for the planning and development strategies of the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG). However there are a competing range of interpretations about the extent and reach of the city-region which challenge the provincial government’s definition.

The project attempted to understand the efficacy of the concept of a ‘city-region’ and the viability of recasting developmental trajectories at a city-regional scale. It aimed to:

  1. develop appropriate methodologies by which the GCR could be defined;
  2. assemble a body of qualitative information and quantitative data describing the make-up of the GCR (population growth and distribution; economic activity; transport; employment; land use etc.); and
  3. forecast long term trends for the city-region, particularly in terms of critical challenges which affect its developmental trajectory (poverty, inequality, rapid urbanisation, migration, xenophobia, racism etc).

The result of the project was a GCRO Occasional Paper commissioned from Prof Alan Mabin, who was then based at the School of Architecture and Planning at Wits University. The Occasional Paper examines how the idea of a city-region has featured in key historical planning documents over the last century.


Mabin, A. (2013) ‘The map of Gauteng: evolution of a city-region in concept and plan’, GCRO Occasional Paper.

Last updated 18 October 2017.


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