Market-Up Mixed Use Development
Johannesburg, South Africa

The influences of globalization operate not only upon urban economic restructuring of the city but also upon the symbolic production of the city-image. The meanings of cultural elements are produced and circulated to symbolically represent values and the identity of the city itself. -- Johannesburg: A World Class African City.

Huff + Gooden Architects was commissioned to re-design an urban block in the Maboneng Precinct in downtown Johannesburg. The project is a mixed-use redevelopment consisting of retail, office / commercial, and residential uses. Huff + Gooden is also responsible for the urban and landscape design for the project.

A new residential structure emerges at the center of the block appearing to hover in global space while transforming the former 7-Up bottling factory in to a courtyard residential loft building and signifying the relationship between Johannesburg and world networked cities.

That Johannesburg has re-branded itself as "A World Class African City" signifies the international attention the city received in recent years and the expected global investments as the igniting forces of globalization transition from China and Southeast Asia to Brazil and South America and now to the African continent. Yet what is the city image that is globally projected and reflected back to itself? For architecture and urban redevelopment maintain their abilities to render complexities and multi-layered meanings within this reflexive and topological condition and to give agency to the diverse identities of this landscape is the opportunity to reconstruct a city of cultural production that will supersede its image.

The urban design strategy is defined by local and global urbanisms. Urban flows along the elevated transportation infrastructure produce parallax visions whereby the site is glanced, glimmered, scanned, and surveilled. Abrupt juxtapositions of foreground, middle-ground, and back-ground, produce disruptions that extend the gaze beyond city's tangible morphology to its "image-dimension" reflected in digital images and posted globally in social space. Local and pedestrian flows at the ground produce convergent visions that merge, blend, and simultaneously include and exclude... yet result in a city-image of heterogeneity.

The Virtual Network Overlay of the city's "image dimension" and its physical construct (tangible urban condition) results in programmatic sleights-of-hands where the program gives way to performance and event. The relationships between performance and event are then projected back to the city's "image dimension" creating a continuous a feedback loop. A disruption in the feedback loop opens the potential for social and political critique.

The relationship between the observer / inhabitant and the city is reflexive condition whereby the projected image of the city reflects upon the observer and the projection of the observer reflects upon the city. This condition begs the question of who is reflected in the city image and how do these reflections inform the meaning of the "World Class African City." Reflection is the ability to modify the structure and performance of urban space. These may be conditions of delay, relay, shift, or morph.

Jacques Lacan's mirror stage is the ability for a young child to distinguish him or herself from their surroundings at an early age in order to form their identity. How do the city's inhabitants and residents of Market Up recognize themselves when gazing upon the city image? How is the new identity of the city being formed by new arrivals to the city as well as by its habitant's rediscovery of urban life in Johannesburg?