Planning in the Twentieth Century
|Although the early Dutch town was
laid out on a grid pattern, the British allowed the city to grow organically in
the hands of developers. By the twentieth century, this was considered
haphazard and expensive.
There were two very different foreign influences on town
planning during the early twentieth century. The first was the British 'garden
city' movement that led to the establishment of Pinelands, and it was hoped
that the successor of Ndabeni (Langa), would be designed in the same way. This
however was not the case as 'control' became the operative concept.
'Maitland Garden Village' was an attempt to provide
urban infrastructure in this style for the coloured community, and was admired
The second influence was a more practical, cost-effective form
of building popular in America that emphasised large spaces for industry,
commerce and residential areas and the use of stark materials such as concrete.
It also favoured zoning areas for particular purposes, e.g. commerce or
The main aims of Cape Town planners during the first half of
the twentieth century was public health and the maintenance of social order.
Racial segregation was seen as an important means to achieve these. Prior to
1927 the authority for town planning was split between different local and
central institutions, and it was only once a town planning ordinance was passed
(1927) and a town planning department established (1934, attached to the City
Engineer's Department) that comprehensive urban zoning began in earnest (1941).
Following the National Party's election victory in 1948, came a
concerted effort at urban planning aimed at achieving complete 'separate
development'. The motivation for this came from central government who were
keen to co-operate with local authorities in achieving their aims, but would
over-ride their plans if necessary.
During the 1960s Caltex Oil and Fedmis fertiliser factories
were erected in the outskirts of the city in Milnerton because their products
were defined as 'noxious'. Montagu Gardens Industrial Area, as well as
Beaconvale and Parow Industria all grew up in the 1960s.
The practice of separating townships from older areas of the
city, and from each other, by the strategically positioning of industrial
areas, railway lines and roads followed the norms of American 'neighbourhood
Many other colonial cities, and American cities, were
racialised in this way. However Cape Town was different because the planning
authorities were aware that they might have to use force to keep the racial
boundaries and maintain a superior position for whites.
Meanwhile, in the Northern suburbs, Afrikaners benefitted from
economic privilege and prosperity after the Second World War. Middle class
residential areas appeared on the slopes of Tygerberg, and areas like Bellville
attracted the headquarters of large Afrikaans companies such as Sanlam. In
1975, a Dutch Reformed Church was built in Bellville, and was the largest in
Atlantis, to the north of Cape Town, was planned in 1977 as a
huge development for coloureds - an 'ethnocity' - to house 500,000 people by
the year 2010. Very high unemployment, however, curtailed the growth of the new
area and today it is associated with poverty and failed social
|In 1937 the decision to reclaim
the foreshore was made. The South African Railways and Harbours (SAR&H) and
the city council took charge of the venture.
SAR&H appointed two advisers (F Lonstreth Thomson, a
well-known British planner, and Prof. L.W. Thornton White of UCT) and the
municipality drew on the services of a French planner E.E. Beaudouin, who was
given leave from the army by the French government who considered it an honour
for France to have him working in Cape Town. He brought French influence
including a love of sweeping vistas and wide boulevards.
Dredging and land-filling began in 1937 and progressed steadily
until the largest dry dock in the southern hemisphere was opened with much
fanfare in 1945.
The development of the foreshore in the 1950s and 60s was
plagued by disagreement about priorities. Among these were the need to ensure
good traffic flow, the desire for broad boulevards and an open vista for the
'Gateway to Africa'.
The resulting compromise were wide roads that cut the foreshore up into windy
stretches and asphalt and concrete car parks that were inaccessible to
pedestrians. Gaps between skyscrapers created wind tunnels that could blow
The result was a virtually lifeless city centre in the
evenings, with the exception of a few bars and restaurants popular with
visiting sailors, and prostitutes standing on street corners.
With the success of the Waterfront the development of the
foreshore began to gather fresh impetus. Very large hotels were built in the
late 1990s, and the impressive Cape Town International Convention Centre opened
in late 2003. The city planted trees and improved the windswept 'Herrengracht'
boulevard. Modern office blocks filled in the formally desolate gaps. At last
the foreshore became a proud part of the city.
| In 1924 the Slums Act was
passed enabling the government to acquire slum properties for demolition or
development. However, during the late 1930s the council began to draw up plans
to remodel the city's slums and remove their inhabitants to land along the
Klipfontein Road where a 'garden city' was to be created offering schools,
churches and recreational facilities.
Housing became a contentious issue in Cape Town due to evidence
(such as Batson's surveys) suggesting that the slums in the city centre were
amongst the worst in South Africa, and to the fact that social activists were
starting to publish the suffering of the poor. Figures like Bishop Sidney Lavis
and Cissie Gool (elected to the Municipal council in 1938) spoke out for
improved housing for the poor.
Q-town (later Kew Town) on the Cape Flats was heralded as one
of the most successful residential developments built during the war years. It
was billed as carefully planned with the aim of 'rehabilitating' the coloured
(slum) population of the inner city areas. A staff of women were appointed to
check that houses were being managed properly by their tenants.
What was evident was that the development of Cape Flats Housing
schemes went with a steady trend towards racial segregation. English-speaking
whites had mixed feelings towards this trend; they rejected the Nationalists
plans for complete segregation on the grounds that this would deny the coloured
community 'opportunities for advancement' and ensure that they remained poor
(as outlined in the Wilcock's coloured commission).
However, they were persuadable that the method by which mixed
areas would be prevented was appropriate to the recommendations of this
commission, because it would come with guarantees of employment and education
Once the Nationalists were in power (1948), slum clearance led
to further townships on the Cape Flats (more..)
Mitchells Plain was designed in the mid seventies as a model
'dormitory suburb' for Coloured people, on the Cape Flats about 20 miles from
the city centre. The 56 original dwellings were built on a standard box-like
design and laid out in neat rows with wide roads between them. The government
liked to show international visitors their housing efforts in Mitchell's Plain.
By 1989, there were 33,000 dwellings in Mitchells Plain and development
contintued rapidly in the 1990s.
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