Partnering to develop shared public space in Johannesburg

Partnering to develop shared public space in Johannesburg

An Instagram tour of one of the Inner City of Johannesburg’s most interesting and dynamic public spaces, Jeppe Park

This session explores and discusses two complex public spaces in Johannesburg, Jeppe Park and the Braamfontein Spruit Park. Jeppe Park or as it is formally called Gilifilan Park is in one of the most complex areas in the Inner City of Johannesburg. This public space has been developed over many years through extensive community activism and engagement with the City of Johannesburg to develop a public space that functions for multiple competing interest groups. During the week it is used by local schools and nursery schools, at lunchtime by factory workers, in the evenings and weekends by sports groups, including skating tours and for decades on Sundays for traditional Ngoma dancing. This has resulted in a collaborative design process with an award recognition landscape design to accommodate these multiple community actions. These actions continue to shape this vital public space in an Inner City neighbourhood that has the dynamics of informal settlements, hijacked buildings, mining hostels, declining industrial employment opportunities, gender-based violence and Inner City regeneration and gentrification. This park is a microcosm of the issues, challenges, and successes in building shared public spaces in one of the world’s most unequal societies. Marc Sherratt’s “Park of Light” is located along the public park of the Braamfontein Spruit in Johannesburg. This project provides a fresh approach to African urban parkland and solves difficult socio-economic problems such as homelessness using an Urban Park Regeneration Strategy (UPRS).


Host: Centre on African Public Spaces, City of Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa

Session Summary

This session brought together professionals from various backgrounds working to enhance public spaces in the City of Johannesburg. The focus of the discussion was centered around two themes:

1) creating safer and inclusive shared public spaces and

2) highlighting the collaborative nature of public space upgrading.

Public spaces such as parks, squares, markets and public transport hubs are important features of cities. These are the spaces in which people can be themselves, express themselves, meet up with friends and also the spaces in which religious and cultural expressions can be accommodated. Ayanda Roji from Johannesburg City Parks opened the discussion with a presentation of the multifunctional nature of public spaces in the South African context. Public spaces are important for health, well-being and spirituality. They are sites of protest and conflict resolution. They are sites of religious and cultural expression. They are sites of intergenerational knowledge. For the urban poor, public spaces are often their first contact with the city. Marc Sherratt from MSSA presented the Park of Light project located in the Braamfontein Spruit.

The project involved upgrading the park with the benefit of improving both the ecological conditions as well as the social conditions in the park. The design incorporates the needs of the homeless or park population who make use of the park to sleep during the night. Another park upgrade was presented by Nikki Pingo from the JDA. Nikki outlined the story of Gilfillah Park (commonly known as Jeppe Park) in the Johannesburg inner-city. Such a park upgrade demonstrates the value of the co-production of knowledge as well as the co-creation of an intervention that benefits the users of the park. The park design was arrived at after a detailed analysis and community engagement process.

Overall, the session provided examples of pilot projects that have had a real impact on people’s lives. In conclusion, the session hosts reflected on the important role of public spaces in South African cities and encouraged attendees to envision future public space projects to be bold, creative, collaborative and inclusive.