Learning from District Six: Drawing On Cape Town

by Ashley Mendelsohn (MDes ’14)

District Six is an infamous example of the forced-removals of the South African apartheid regime. The vibrant, integrated district was declared white and 66,000 people were forcibly removed over the course of two decades. A year of research, both on and off site revealed multiple competing registers of District Six: the extent to which it is represented and misrepresented, contested and forgotten. Fieldwork involved unraveling the current status of the site–I was confronted by conflicting information, heated emotions, rumors and scandals. Design can be used as a way to communicate complex issues. The future of District Six depends on changing the perception of the site as a place and as a concept. Making the distinction between learning about and learning from District Six; I created a book that catalogs and unpacks elements from the urban fabric that can contribute to future development and understanding of the broader city.