Marjetica Potrč

“The Soweto Project: Ubuntu Park” [ENG]


Abstract: For two and a half months in spring 2014, students of the Design for the Living World class (University of Fine Arts/HFBK, Hamburg, Germany) engaged in The Soweto Project in Soweto, South Africa. The project is an example of participatory design, with the students and the community planning and realizing the project together. The project designs community using relational objects and performative actions, such as the construction of a performance platform and the organization of a Soweto Street Festival. Ubuntu Park in Orlando East is a former public space that has been used as a dumping ground for more than 40 years. Working together, the community and the students cleaned up the area and made a number of improvements: they built a stage, benches and tables, and braai stands. On 9 March 2014, the space was given the name Ubuntu Park. The public space is managed and organized by the community, who have elected the Ubuntu Park Committee and formed a community-based organization, Environ Ubuntu Park Projects. The Soweto Project is an initiative of Nine Urban Biotopes – Negotiating the Future of Urban Living. The project is a collaboration between the students of the Design for the Living World class, the residents of Orlando East, morethanshelters Berlin, PlanAct Johannesburg, and the Goethe-Institut South Africa.


Bio: Marjetica Potrč is an artist and architect based in Ljubljana and Berlin. Potrč’s artworks have been exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the Americas, including at the Venice Biennial (1993, 2003, 2009) and the São Paulo Biennial (1996, 2006), and are shown regularly at Galerie Nordenhake in Berlin. Her many on-site community-based projects include Dry Toilet (Caracas, 2003), The Cook, the Farmer, His Wife and Their Neighbour (Amsterdam, 2009) and Between the Waters (Essen, 2010). Since 2011, she has been a professor at the University of Fine Arts/HFBK in Hamburg, where she teaches the course Design for the Living World, in which students develop participatory design projects over long-term residencies. One of their most recent projects is The Soweto Project (Soweto, South Africa, 2014). In Potrč’s view, when communities implement and disseminate sustainable solutions, they both empower themselves and help create a democracy built from below.