Architecture is an existential expression. It sets in stone our interpretation of the world and of who we are as beings of care. This essay aims to give an in depth explanation of migrants “Belonging” within Bloemfontein’s urban fabric and how architectural influence man in the context. It also explains the complexities within the given context of the central business district as well as the tectonics of the character and lastly the methods and metaphors incorporated within the urban ensample.
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Architecture can be viewed as an “externalisation of ourselves” (Pallasmaa transcribed form the essence of architecture with Juhani Palasmaa, 2014) and its task is to “render vivid to us who we might ideally be” (De Botton, 2006: 13). Architecture has the ability to ‘move’ us with a simple detail. A good example of architecture “makes human existence meaningful, and meaning is the fundamental human need” (Norberg-Schulz, 1979: 23). These ‘works of art’ are an existential expression of our ‘beinging-in the-world. They set in stone our lived reality and enables us to dwell, creating an existential foothold where we can belong (Norberg-Schulz, 1979).
Extensive studies have been performed regarding the migration concept of people in the academic settings. Some topics addressed under these studies encompass the adoption of remittances in sending countries, reasons behind people’s migration, and the effect of migration on the families of migrants However, the migrants’ experiences of belonging have not received much attention, especially in South Africa. Belonging in this occurrence is inferred as both a feeling of being at home in a place and an ability in conversation and use of socio-spatial in/exclusion (Antonsich, 2010). Space is “the encompassing volumetric void in which things including human beings are positioned” (Casey, 2001:683) while place refers to “particular nodal points within a complex web of social interactions which stretch around the world and which have certain importance for people or groups” (Easthope, 2004:129,137).
Antonsich outlines belonging as an emotional sensation of being at home in a situation and states that by home he refers to a “symbolic space of familiarity, comfort, security, and emotional attachment”. Thus, if migrants are not introduced or conscious of objects or implements in an area and they are a, they are unable to achieve a sense of belonging. Individuals frequently experience the world in a similar manner as it is experienced by those around them. By investigating into the experience of the daily live of a migrant, one can come to conclusion that there is a power in the cultural factor, this is because that cultural influence such as language and other cultural rituals and customs add to the reaching of one’s sense of belonging. Phenomenological application in social life are endeveavors or aims to comprehend how the world is understood and seen from the outlook of a specific groups or possibly certain individuals. Phenomenology requires the study of the consciousness of people in there surroundings; that includes how individuals understand, see, experience, engage with a specific situations, perceive, respond to and emotionally feel. Phenomenology is furthermore involved with lifestyle , which alludes to the typical, unremarkable settings in which individuals work retains that a sense of place, which is related with feelings of belonging, is derived from people’s existence and involvement. Therefore a much better way to understand belonging, is to focus on the standard of living of migrants and to comprehend their encounters from their own individual points of view, and as such phenomenology could be a important tool.
Migration is a defining challenge for architects and designers today. But migration has always been at the heart of urban change. Cities are fundamentally places of opportunity—urban migrants continue to be drawn in their millions by the promise of security as well as upward mobility. Architecture should appeal to and awaken our sense of being and our desire for beauty, a beauty which is derived from the harmony that emanates from a unification of purpose and the understanding of place (Plato, 2003: 73). The city has developed around the central business district (CBD) in a sectoral form, with the majority of the poor and previous disadvantaged communities living in the south-eastern section. Because the north/south railway line creates a definite barrier between communities and has distanced the poor from the economic opportunities that are mainly concentrated to the west of the railway line. However, the normative has given rise to various, social and spatial problems in the form of continuing informal segregation as remnants from Apartheid past, and a cold, polluted public environment. It’s caused by the city’s rigid, modernist layout that has produced sensory impoverished places, where function trumps meaning, machine trumps human performance. Spaces inhabited not necessarily according to original function.
Although buildings do change all the time, such as the users, colour and maybe the context, a building still represents the process of thoughts at a specific moment of time, it is the abstraction of a certain place and the Genius Loci of the place. The feeling of that abstraction is turned into an idea and then into a concrete element. Architecture is thus a moment frozen in time and thus becomes a memory. It makes a moment concrete and it allows people of the future to experience a certain moment of time in the past. It helps people of the future understand people of that specific moments‟ thought process and that helps them experience what the previous people/architects experienced. Architecture doesn‟t only bring people of the present together but people of the past with the people of the future.
Bloemfontein is seen has a small little town to most, nut yet it has place of consequence. Martin Heidegger state “What is optically nearest and familiar is ontologically the farthest, unrecognised and always overlooked in its ontological significance”. Even this far and unrecognized song of everydayness of the small city, Bloemfontein, lays a deep lessons from which the nearest provides (Auret, 2010).“Architecture means to visualise the genius loci, and the task of the architect is to createMeaningful place, whereby he helps man to dwell” (Norberg-Schulz, 1979: 9). One is able to dwell when he belongs to a concrete place which he can identify with and orientate himself within, a place which he experiences as meaningful. Architecture is created from the place for the people. One can claim that a city becomes a place of care, a place where a thing can identify its self with its built environment, even better the other thing, together, integrating with in this urban fabric. Without human beings, being with in this city at this particular time and place, the city would be without soul, no one to care. And yet one can claim without a city there can be no care. Heidegger replies: “essentially it is ‘in taking care’ that mortals being, brings something near.” Care brings the real world of living near (Auret, 2010). Do migrants feel the same way towards the city as opposed to the local people? Do xenophobic actions derive from this question? Yet if a migrant travels to a city for better opportunities, one would believe that this migrant places the city on a pedestal, praising the new opportunities it could hold within (Auret, 2015). Thus this city becomes a place of care for a migrant seeking opportunity, yet it may seem like migrants destroying our city scape, it could be argued, out of envy and poor reasoning that the local people are diminishing our city scape.
Migrants are confronted by various challenges within the countries of destination. These challenges incorporate avoidance, xenophobia, financial hardship and barriers to accessing public services such as housing and health care. Their unlawful status subjects them to harassment and hostility from South African citizens. They face financial hardship due to the small salaries or wages that they gain should they have a formal job. They too confront labelling and stereotyping, as well as making presumptions around beliefs, views, and conduct of an person depending on the group to which s/he has been categorised, that this is often due to the parallel presumption of similarity between individuals of a group, which characteristics of a group define the individual. Belonging then in cenred around the interaction with regards to the differences and sameness that comes from these margins of who does and who does not belong (Ralph & Staeheli, 2011:523). This creates an issue for individuals as the dominant group identifies the idea of belonging with sameness. A person will be confirmed into the group if the representatives consider the person to be similar to one another (Ralph & Staeheli, 2011:523). To belong then, individuals (migrants) that are not part of the dominant group must attain this similarity by adopting the culture, language, values, behaviour, and religion of the dominant group thus resulting in a loss of heritage and uniqness. As individuals we can create our one unique understanding of a lived experience by simply being aware of our surroundings and of course our haptic senses, this creates cities that are filled with rich and sensitive meaning.
“Man is related to the character of things” (Norberg-Schulz, 1979) this ‘character’ is visible in the things we perceive as beautiful. Meaningful architecture reveals and keeps what is important to us. It allows us to gather the character of the place and “brings it close to man” (Norberg-Schulz, 1979). It sets in stone our lived reality and enables us to dwell, creating an existential foothold where we can belong.
The honesty of architecture lies in lingering close to the essence of the thing, the integration of the spirit of the place and its existential purpose of place. Through the combination of these elements, we, as beings of care, are able to dwell poetically. Architecture makes our existence meaningful with quiet gestures of its beauty as well as potentially reminding us of who we ought to be.
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