blank___Architecture, apartheid and after
Netherlands Architecture Institute
The exhibition is the result of an extensive research project in which the complexities of the built environment and the deep structures of racist spatial planning in South Africa are examined for the first time. These divisive structures, embedded in the landscape, represent both pressing constraints and unique possibilities for architecture and urban planning in the country. By placing the present moment in a new relation with the immediate past, the exhibition generated public debate at a time when there is little critical analysis of architectural questions.
The exhibition structure was developed in response to a conceptual mapping of the terrain. The map describes the architectural and the political landscape of South Africa in geographical terms by bringing a series of key positions into relationship with one another: urban invasions, community building, violence, the house as icon, the international tendency, forced removals, the 1960s, corrugated iron, fortification, weave, Promised Land and planned divisions. Related concepts congregate around these positions to address one another across the spaces between. The map is an organising device to schematise the terrain and to help the viewer navigate through the exhibition.
More than fifty researchers, writers, photographers and filmmakers were engaged in the project over a period of eighteen months. During this intensive research process, previously dispersed and hidden materials were brought together. The diverse disciplines of the contributors ensured that much of the complex terrain was covered. A multi-disciplinary approach was considered imperative in the attempt to piece together the South African present from the fragments of its recent history. By generating an interplay of views and raising a range of questions, blank___ aims to contribute to an understanding of the difficult, divided spaces that will be one of apartheid’s lasting legacies.
In addition to the exhibition, a book was developed as not simply a catalogue but a compilation of over forty comprehensive written and photographic essays, structured around the same conceptual map as the exhibition.
Netherlands Architecture Institute, Rotterdam, December 1998 to March 1999.
Haus de Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, September to November 1999
Museum Africa, Johannesburg, June to December 2000.