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Appropriating modernism: Apartheid and the South African township [ITU J Faculty Arch]
ITU J Faculty Arch. 2011; 8(1): 184-195

Appropriating modernism: Apartheid and the South African township

Errol J. Haarhoff
School of Architecture and Planning University of Auckland, NEW ZEALAND

Modernism has been used during the 20th century to support and justify political aims and agendas in nefarious ways. Although social inequality in South Africa has roots in its colonial past, it was during the 1950‟s that institutional segregation was formalized resulting in race- based urban spatial structures and inbuilt inequalities. The paper outlines how the modern movement provided a rationale for advancing this programme as a largely technical exercise that enabled the social and political contradictions involved to be sidestepped. Traced is the early impact of the modern movement in South Africa and the emergence of close relationships between local and European protagonists. The application of the modernist agenda is discussed in relation to the spatialisation of race, the emergence of the apartheid city in the 1960‟s, and the delivery of a mass housing programme in the segregated townships. Conclusions are drawn concerning the extent to which this legacy has resulted in highly inefficient cities that now confront post-apartheid South Africa in the 21st century.

Keywords: Modernism, South Africa, housing, apartheid


Errol J. Haarhoff. Appropriating modernism: Apartheid and the South African township. ITU J Faculty Arch. 2011; 8(1): 184-195

Corresponding Author: Errol J. Haarhoff, Türkiye


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