Building a future on the ruins of our apartheid past

30 June 2021 - 13:25
'Falling Monuments, Reluctant Ruins' interrogates how, in the era of decolonisation, post-apartheid SA reckons with its past in order to shape its future.
'Falling Monuments, Reluctant Ruins' interrogates how, in the era of decolonisation, post-apartheid SA reckons with its past in order to shape its future.
Image: Supplied

Falling Monuments, Reluctant Ruins: The Persistence of the Past in the Architecture of Apartheid interrogates how, in the era of decolonisation, post-apartheid SA reckons with its past to shape its future.

In this book architects, historians, artists, social anthropologists and urban planners seek answers to complex and unsettling questions around heritage, ruins and remembrance.

What do we do with hollow memorials and political architectural remnants? Which should remain, which forgotten and which dismantled? Are these vacant buildings, cemeteries, statues and derelict grounds able to serve as inspiration in the fight against enduring racism and social neglect? Should they become exemplary as spaces for restitution and justice?

The contributors examine the influence of public memory, planning and activism on such anguished places of oppression, resistance and defiance. Their focus on visible markers in the landscape to interrogate our past will make readers reconsider these spaces, looking at their landscape and history anew.

Through 14 empirically grounded chapters and 48 images, the contributors seek to understand how architecture contests or subverts these persistent conditions to promote social justice, land reclamation and urban rehabilitation. The decades following the dismantling of apartheid are surveyed in light of contemporary heritage projects, where building ruins and abandoned spaces are challenged and renegotiated across the country to become sites of protest, inspiration and anger.

This ground-breaking collection is an important resource for professionals, academics and activists working in SA today.

Falling Monuments, Reluctant Ruins "offers a nuanced perspective that critically engages with historical spaces, events and monuments. It advances current debates, as well as calls into question how to move forward (or not) in processes of memorialising and reusing spaces in which oppression was enacted or challenged. It addresses important questions about the ways in which history, memory, agency and transformation are actively socially constructed and reconstructed within landscapes and, in particular, through public spaces, land, buildings and statues." — Jennifer Houghton, Urban Futures Centre, Durban University of Technology


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