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Changing the face of Johannesburg

Published at: 20 October 2016

A small architecture firm in Johannesburg is busy making big changes to the way that the city works

26’10 South Architect’s bright red door in Brixton, Johannesburg, is becoming one the landmarks of the area – a rapidly changing suburb of brand-new bicycle lanes and infrastructural upgrades which their firm finds themselves in the middle of. It’s just one of the many projects they have been involved in in their 10 years practicing in the city, whose latitude and longitudinal points are what the firm is named after.

“Living and working in a place like Johannesburg invariably impacts on one’s psyche.” Says Thorsten Deckler in a recent interview with South African design website Design Indaba. “It means being constantly aware or reminded of the historical, physical and psychological barriers of the city and how these impact on people’s lives, their interactions and the choices they make.” He says.

Deckler started the firm in 2004 with Anne Graupner, who he met, and fell in love with in Johannesburg. Their oeuvre encompasses more research-based projects like “Housing and the Informal City” which looks at the state of housing in Diepsloot – an informal settlement located outside of the city; as well as the editing of a book, curating several exhibitions, producing artwork, films and events, teaching and writing, interiors and furniture, private and public buildings, infrastructure and the planning of an entirely new neighborhood of 20 000 houses.

Their diversity of projects is central to the way their firm works, Deckler says in the interview. “We enjoy working on a range of projects and will take on private sector commissions if we feel there is a synergy between us and the clients or developer. In fact, I would love to be able to do a high-income residential project based on a courtyard typology which would be much more efficient in its land utilisation. We are most passionate about public projects, be they infrastructure, public buildings or housing.”

Their firm is just in the beginning of a powerful promise to change the way the city of Johannesburg works, but that is just the beginning. Go to their website to see some of their work, and read the full interview with Design Indaba here.

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