Decoding Design

Johannesburg's urban revival

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The city of Johannesburg is shaking off its dangerous image with the help of young entrepreneurs who are importing ideas from stylish cities abroad.

The city of Johannesburg is shaking off its crime-filled, dangerous image with the help of young entrepreneurs who are importing ideas from stylish cities abroad. Nkepile Mabuse reports for CNN on the urban developments revitalizing South Africa's largest city.

Some of the urban planning and design strategies popping up in Johannesburg are repurposing commercial and industrial buildings, developing areas near transportation, and encouraging mixed use live-work arrangements. Adam Levy, a lawyer turned developer, is especially active in reviving his native city.

Levy's keystone project is a office building turned apartment complex in Braamfontein, a part of Johannesburg known for being particularly rough around the edges. The building is next to a railway, a location traditionally seen as dangerous. But Levy saw promise in bringing SoHo style lofts --and the young, artistic community that surrounds them-- to what was once Johannesburg's central business district.

According to Levy, the most important factor for successfully reviving the downtown into a place where people want to live, work, and visit was changing people's minds about the city's urban areas.

"You've got to believe that you can change in the first instance...You've got to go out there and actively try and make a process of modifying the way people function," he said. "I don't believe in the culture of 50-foot walls and big electric fences. I think you can engender a different way of engaging with people."

Urban rebirth: Johannesburg shakes off crime-ridden past [CNN]

Image: Play Braamfontein

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure