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Data by Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges

Borders are both material and unseen, constructed and imaginary, fixed and fluid. In recent years we have seen the continued relevance of international borders and how these affect the lives of people in different places. While political borders remain as pertinent as ever, this exhibition examines other kinds of “urban borders” in the context of the Gauteng City-Region(GCR).

Cities in South Africa are infamous for their divided and unequal geographies, a legacy of the colonial and apartheid planning policies. Despite significant efforts to integrate the GCR, apartheid’s visible and invisible borders and barriers remain both in the material landscape and in the economic and social fabric. Although the history of apartheid is particular to South Africa, the inequality that the city-region faces resonates across many parts of the world.

This exhibition explores the making, shifting, and bridging of urban borders through four perspectives. The “Spatial” story map relays how—even though the political borders of provinces and “homeland” states were abolished with the end of apartheid and the first democratic elections in 1994—spatial segregation remains and recurs, in spite of the fact that other shifts have occurred in the last twenty years.

The “Social” story map illustrates how racist apartheid laws have re-emerged as social barriers, which can manifest in the urban landscape in such physical forms as gated communities.

The “Resource” story map shows how the broader context of the landscape and natural resources worked as a barrier shaping the history of development in the city-region, as well as how it will shape its future.

The “Institutional” story map explores how both government and academia are navigating these complexities while also encountering institutional and knowledge borders.

The Gauteng City-Region is South Africa’s economic heartland and includes the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. It holds thirteen million people and generates a third of the South African GDP on 1.5% of its land area.

Map of the population density of the Gauteng City-Region. The map shows how the city-region extends beyond the provincial boundary of Gauteng.
Map of global visitors to the Gauteng City-Region Observatory website. The map shows how information that is produced by the GCRO is accessed around the world.
Map of the streets of the Gauteng City-Region. Echoing the production of aerial photos, the map constructs a composite image of Gauteng using geotagged photos of its streets. © Gauteng City-Region Observatory
Map of the sampling points for the GCRO Quality of Life Survey. Starting in 2009 the GCRO has run a biennial Quality of Life survey with responses from some 30,000 respondents in the province. © Gauteng City-Region Observatory

The Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) builds the data and analysis to help inform development in this region.

Data by Gauteng City-Region Observatory.

urbanNext (April 14, 2024) Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges. Retrieved from
Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges.” urbanNext – April 14, 2024,
urbanNext November 17, 2017 Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges., viewed April 14, 2024,<>
urbanNext – Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges. [Internet]. [Accessed April 14, 2024]. Available from:
Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges.” urbanNext – Accessed April 14, 2024.
Johannesburg. Shifting Borders and Building Bridges.” urbanNext [Online]. Available: [Accessed: April 14, 2024]

urbanNext | expanding architecture to rethink cities and territories


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