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- Urban Futures Centre
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Welcome to the Urban Futures Centre
Based in the Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment at the Durban University of Technology (DUT), the Urban Futures Centre (UFC) is an interdisciplinary laboratory that not only builds theory, but also tests out ideas and interventions in ways that are not prescribed and determined by dominant stakeholders, be they government officials, academics or large social movements. The UFC seeks to find new solutions to problems, and to do so in collaboration with those most affected by the complexities that characterise urban spaces. The UFC serves as the central node for a network of projects, institutions, practitioners and academics interested in the future of cities locally (in Durban and South Africa) and globally. It currently houses a set of local and international research collaboration projects, including two community engagement projects. Underpinning the workings and activities of the centre is a concern with the real people who live in cities, and their futures.
Focusing on quality of urban life, the UFC utilises university capacity and resources to design sustainable urban solutions to everyday problems. Imagining urban futures raises questions on the types of thinking and practices required to make cities great places to live in. Integrating intellectual, theoretical, practical and community resources the UFC aims to build an interdisciplinary knowledge network, encourage processes of innovation and imagination, and engage urban problems and solutions through a systems approach. The UFC is a space of engagement and deliberation, which takes place through a weekly seminar programme as well as organised public debates.
The UFC has a number of past and present projects that can be viewed on the Projects page, these projects address and cut across a number of South African Research Priorities as well as the Sustainable Development Goals (specifically SDG 3 (good health and wellbeing), 5 (gender equality), 8 (decent work and economic growth), 10 (reduce inequalities), 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 12 (responsible production and consumption), 13 (climate change), 14 (life under water) and 17 (partnership for the goals).
Our 2021 Annual Report can be viewed here.
The 2020 – 2021 Bellhaven Harm Reduction Centre Report can be viewed here.
Our 2019 – 2020 Annual Report can be viewed here.
Our 2016 – 2017 Annual Report can be viewed here
Our 2015 Annual Report can be viewed here.
- Using an imaginary lens
- Doing engaged research
- Focusing on social and environmental justice
- Knowledge building for societal good
- Designing with conscience
- Aiming for resilience and inclusivity
- Improving the quality of everyday life in cities
- Recognising multi-agent systems of governance
- Challenging dominant paradigms of policy and theorizing
When the Urban Futures Centre was constituted within the Durban University of Technology, a workshop was held with key potential actors in the Centre to determine what themes would hold the centre together. These themes were determined based on current debates within urban centres both nationally and internationally, as well as based on the more localised urban dynamics of Durban as the city that hosts the centre.
The projects that the UFC undertakes ‘fit’ with at least one of these identified themes. Project choices are determined by their resonance with the guiding principles of the Centre.
Urban safety and risk management
Perceived and real safety are fundamental to the health of any city. Safety, in the view of the UFC@DUT, does not, however, only pertain to physical safety. It also includes the risk management and securitisation of health, food, energy and water.
Urban mobility and flows
The UFC@DUT, drawing on the work of Castells, believes that cities are places of flow. This includes the flows of goods, services, information, people, water and energy, transportation and food.
Urban creativity, aesthetics and cultural dynamism
Urban spaces are, and should be, co-created spaces of creativity, cultural dynamism and social connection.
The governance of transition and the transition of governance
As cities shift and flows occur, new forms of governance are required. At the same time, governance arrangements need to be established to facilitate flows and transitions.
Digital and invisible cities
Cities are not simply 3D entities. They operate digitally, and in some instances, their existence is virtual. In addition, cities hold within them people, places and even structures that are ‘invisible’ (especially in regard to dominant and elite groupings). It is the less visible entities of cities that have proven time and again to be the most resilient components of them.