Meet the new architects of freedom

 
 
 

The designs for our future are among the heap of blueprints on Khensani de Klerk’s desk. It’s been 25 years since South Africa’s first democratic election. Legally, we have the freedom to live wherever we choose. But the scars of the Group Areas Act are slow to recover. From the tin structures in Gugulethu to the mansions in Umhlanga, communities are still segregated by class and colour. “In South Africa’s past, architecture was used as a tool to divide people,” De Klerk says. Together with Solange Mbanefo, the junior architect founded Matri-Archi(tecture), a collective rethinking the structure of our cities.

The team consists of 12 talented individuals, from researchers and designers to filmmakers and a lawyer. Together, they promote inclusive city development and provide spatial education. “With more women and people of colour joining the industry, there’s a better chance for us to create diverse public spaces,” De Klerk says. Since 2018, they’ve hosted workshops in Switzerland, collaborated with Nairobi Design Week, and built a digital network that spans the globe.

Our democracy is still in its youth and we have a long way to go on the road to healing. Reviewing our country’s design is a pivotal point of development. “There’s a huge need for us to learn how to work together so that spatial segregation becomes a myth,” De Klerk says. With dynamic thinkers like her, we can place our trust in the creatives designing our future. “My hope for South Africa is that we can create a city where the pavement is the safest space for all of us to occupy,” De Klerk says. That’s true freedom.