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TAXI RANK NO.2

Diepsloot, a post-apartheid township on the urban fringes of northern Johannesburg, is a thriving yet socially and economically fragile environment, providing many with an accessible and affordable entry point into the urban economy of the city. Its main taxi rank, which connects Diepsloot residents to the city, was upgraded in 2010-11 by the City of Johannesburg as part of an attempt to improve public spaces within townships and informal settlements.

Through a series of retro-fitting steps, additional functions and spaces are added to the existing taxi rank. Simple design decisions to improve the general environmental, social and commercial sustainability of the taxi rank led to a layout which seeks to integrate the facility with the day-to-day life of Diepsloot. To this effect, an existing market has been integrated into the public edge of the rank, conceived as a giant veranda or concourse.

Upon entering Diepsloot, the most prominent part of the old taxi rank was the back of its leaking toilet block, reminding visitors and residents of the perennial problems experienced in the area with the failing sewerage and storm water systems. The building is now upgraded and its services screened by means of a public space welcoming people to Diepsloot and offering a sheltered meeting point - an urban ‘porch’ - at which to socialise and consume food and refreshments purchased at the market with a view over the settlement. Initially intended to be constructed out of wood to allow for extensions by traders and residents (as seen in many of the informal shelters found along Diepsloot’s main road), the market was realised as a steel frame upon the client’s request for ‘durability’. The market opens onto a raised concourse into which seating ledges have been integrated, offering moments of pause where patrons wait for the bus, meet, or take in a quick lunch or dinner prepared by the food traders. Due to the sporadic electricity supply, fireplaces are provided in the food stalls. The fireplace chimney stacks can be boxed out by large billboards, generating additional income towards the management and maintenance of the rank.

The existing administration office is extended with a new meeting space, and a new car wash and repair workshop are introduced to generate additional income. The existing roof over the taxi queuing aisles is extended and opened up by means of mono-pitch ‘factory-type’ roof lights to allow better light into the spaces below which previously required the lights to be on during the day. The new roofs are sloped at a pitch suitable for solar panels and provision is made for a UPS station to power the rank during the frequent electricity outages affecting Diepsloot.

NOTE: The recently completed rank is due to be occupied by traders and vendors in in April / May 2012. The delay in occupancy has been caused by a protracted negotiating process over rentals between the city’s management agency and the local taxi association. The proposal for integrated advertising on the rank anticipated the need to generate income for the upkeep of a public facility and the city is in the process of obtaining expressions of interest to this effect. The concrete bases of the chimney stacks have been engineered to cope with the additional (wind) load that large-scale billboards would impose on the building.

Project team: Thorsten Deckler, Anne Graupner, Nkululeko Mbengu, Stephen Reid, Carl Jacobs, Guy Trangos, Lara Wilson, Nzinga Biegueng Mboup, Alex Howell, Thulani Rachia, Mtembekhi Ngema

Featured in DOMUS 958 May, 2012

Photographs by Iwan Baan (www.iwan.com)