ERIC WRIGHT & CLAUDIA MORGADO
‘In its current form, architecture is an elaborate ritual to avoid the inevitable: namely, if history continues the way it does, our ongoing and increased marginalisation in the future.’
Reinier de Graaf, OMA and AMO
The architectural profession is in denial. The heroic modernist is dead, and his tools have been co-opted to chase profit in the rollout of exclusive, unaffordable and unliveable cities. The practice of architecture is facing radical pressures; neighbourhoods and infrastructures destroyed by progressive climatic crises, mass migrations due to war, drought and poverty, gross inequalities in society and a profession geared to serve the 1%. The architect is now called upon to become the contractor, the developer, the creator, the user, the facilitator and the client. Projects are self-generated and processes non-linear, marking a departure: not necessarily about works of architecture but about working as an architect. Unit 13 is interested in forward-thinkers, futurists with a measured optimism about what lies ahead - the future of our cities and the future of our profession. By employing dialogue as a practical tool to transform the way we work, we facilitate conversations and collaborations with professions and individuals both in and outside the realm of architecture with the aim of generating new ways of thinking and understanding. It is also where we learn how to dwell productively in ambiguity. Consumption is the ruling ideology of our time. 90% of the goods that we eat, wear and consume daily are shipped around the world on container ships, with 50 000 vessels currently on the move. The largest container ship can carry 21 000 containers, with the capacity to hold over one billion bananas. These trade networks include shipping lanes, coastal and inland intermodal facilities, and connected infrastructures. As global trade continues to increase so does the impact of these spaces within our cities. Johannesburg’s City Deep Freight Hub, the largest inland container depot on the continent, is to receive massive public and private investment upgrades in the coming years. The nearest seaport is Durban, roughly 500km southeast. Durban is the busiest seaport on the continent; it is the second largest container port in Africa and the fourth largest container port in the Southern Hemisphere. Arguably, these intermodal facilities have little room for architecture at present, being seen more as mass engineered infrastructures of overwhelming scale. This year we situate our study here. The two ports, City Deep and Durban, are seen as ‘one’ space between and within two cities, both belonging to their host city, the international marketplace and each other. By speculating future growth whilst investigating the challenges, contention and conflict of this space, we seek to construct transverse territories of locality, trade and practice.