Monday, April 23, 2012

It ain't necessarily so (Miles Davis version)

This time I will touch upon a few different but in my view connected matters – first...
As we all know, imported goods are unnecessarily expensive here due to transport costs.            

And as I have argued so far in my writings, transport costs will escalate very much in the future.  This is due to the oil bubble bursting. The oil producing countries know very well that they have a finite product and the last drops will be expensive – and they want to keep the last barrels for themselves. Furthermore, it is confusing to see that the distributors (Exxon, Mobile, BP, Shell et al) seemingly have a deep stance in the crude oil production, too  – covering the whole line from extracting to the deliverance.  That’s obviously what happens on a free, unregulated market!  I don’t understand the record profits they have just now if this isn’t the explanation.

So the unregulated, free trade market is making record profits of the very basic necessity for the GDP growth, as we know it so far – in fact killing it. And consequently killing all kinds of fumbling small industrialization attempts for the developing countries – where we belong.

 Consequently, we have to do what the now industrialized countries once did. Start local production and protect it from unfair competition. That was actually the basis for the so called Bretton Woods Concept!

We must have a construction material production of our own and cut the ever escalating transport costs. As well as putting more people into production!   

As a matter of fact – the same goes for food production and electricity. We have realized this, now, and hopefully we will soon have the house in order.  Outstanding  examples  are  diamond sorting and polishing, glass manufacturing and more. We have a brick factory that cannot compete with our neighbour in the south, so some kind of protection is needed (as it is for eggs, chicken and poultry and now and then, tomatoes, too).

Obviously our government is aware of the modern economical follies as some kind of anti-neoliberal concepts are in use despite the propaganda from World Bank, IMF and WTO with its “tamed” economists from the Chicago School of Economics. 

In this situation we have to strongly convince ourselves and possible investors that we locally have to secure a construction industry of our own as I indicated in last column.

I leave the rest of arguing to the new generation of “dissident” economists that now and then are writing intelligible in our papers or you can find on the Web.  GS Mantowe mentioned some in his latest column that I know you read.   On my part I recommend you to read Herman Daly (professor in environmental science and former World Bank expert – see Daly News on Google). He knows a great deal about our future!

Now another topic that will lead to a third one and I find them being connected.

In my bookshelf I have “Ralph Erskine – Architect” (Byggforlaget, Stockholm 1990), and I want to quote some lines in the following:

Erskine often spoke to guests at international congresses as well to students and fellow architects. In such a company his role was to warn of the risks of following trends and temporary whims – in his view, “postmodernism is a harlot touting flashy packaging for capitalism”. He also often spoke of the need to create mixed-use communities of buildings in harmony with one another.

For him beauty was not necessarily what was elegant – he said that “God created not just the speedy elegant gazelle but also the pig. Just like the pig, slightly clumsy, thick buildings can be beautiful provided they terminate with a neat flourish”.

And now, how to illustrate some of the more than 200 projects in RE’s diary? And suddenly it has become obvious how to do it...

Mmegi  02 March 2012 has an article by Gothataone Moeng about the often mentioned “lack of landmarks” in Gaborone. A few professional architects are mentioned and quoted, among them Leta Mosienyane and Nick Njarange. They complain, bitterly!

But neither of them is pointing the finger to where it should be pointing – to the architects! They seem to be missing some organization outside the architectural field that should be responsible. But there is no other than the architects that should be accused of the ignorance for the missing beauty of our capital, in my opinion.

They are the ones designing new buildings with no connection to other buildings. Facing different directions, being high, medium or low, according to Killion Mokwete, also interviewed.

Are these “prominent” architects asking for help by DTRP, Town Councils or what?
Why can’t the architectural profession come up with an “aesthetical and concurrence board” similar to what they have in Paris, London and New York (even Stockholm, by the way)? Why do they ask to be spoon fed with regulations? Haven’t they the professional background to solve the problem they are complaining about? Isn’t it a fight on “home grounds”?

Well, I’m pessimistic. I don’t think they are willing to take the responsibility to come up with a city of some kind of coherent beauty. They prefer the masquerade – the fancy dress party and then point the finger somewhere else! They all tried their own “landmark” and failed due to lack of co-operation.

So, finally, let me introduce to you an Erskine landmark project (done in collaboration with his old architect friends – a normal working condition for him) now built in Stockholm - the Wasa Terminal.

In brief, it is a covering a large part of the Central Station and opening up an enormous amount of bus, office, and commercial space on what was earlier supposed to be an impediment, a “fault line” in the City, like the one we have. The commercial success was enormous and something similar can be made in Gaborone, I’m sure.

In earlier articles and in other papers, I have mentioned this to no avail. The double spur from New Naledi to Segoditshane Valley must be dug down. No problem! The goods yard moved outside the immediate urban area.  And all of a sudden we have an enormous area that could be opened for development! As well as connecting Gab West with Gab East – what a relief for pedestrians! And we will have a prestigious terminal for our long haul busses and spur based commuting, too. (Fortunately, we already have a terminal for the hundreds of kombi’s we have to live with for years, if I understand the situation right.)

Furthermore, it is obvious to me that Botswana Railways, the major landowner in the area, nowadays is very much interested in making money from real estate.

And, with collaboration between the architects, the possible “landmark” that is wanted, will hopefully be possible.  But organize yourself and work together.  Maybe you should ask for a competition among selected consortiums (it’s a too big project for any existing firm of today). Maybe it could result in something as impressive as the proposal by SHoP Architects for the Innovation Hub.

And act while it is still money around for this kind of projects. I wish you luck! Below I will give you an idea how RE and his friends made it in Stockholm (see pic). And note, the necessary glass-covered, indoor concept, there,  could here become a carbon-friendly shaded area, here.

Pic of Wasa Terminal in Central Stockholm

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