Arrival City: Redesigning Park Station and the Precinct

Tuesday, 7 October, 2014 - 12:00

WiSER invites you to

Arrival City

Redesigning Park Station and the Precinct












Johannesburg’s Park Station has long been a terminus and place of new beginnings for travellers and migrants from across southern Africa – a key point of arrival on the African continent since its opening in 1897. Trains, buses, and taxis bring people to the end of a long journey, while commuters pass through the cavernous “new” station (opened in 1946) on their way to and from formal sector jobs, or trying just to “find money.” The old station and its famous Blue Room are now closed. In the new station, names like Gautrain, Metrorail, Shosholoza Meyl, Rea Vaya, Metrobus, and Intercape beam from signs and billboards above the crowds of people moving through this nodal point in their itinerary, tracing zigzagging lines through the city, the country, and the continent.

Park Station is also a bridge: not only does it join so many points A and B in myriad different journeys, but, like its counterpart, the Nelson Mandela bridge just to the west, it also links the CBD with Braamfontein and the Wits University community. Its long hall straddles the great rail lines that make up Johannesburg’s “river.”

As much as it is a space of transit, Park also displays some of the trappings of that contemporary South African space of the sedentary “good life”: the mall. Walking in from the Braamfontein side, the names of ubiquitous fast food chains jump out, alongside banks and car rental agencies, a Dischem, and soon, we are promised, a Kwikspar. The old station, on the CBD side, is now partially occupied by a KFC. Even more surprising, perhaps, are the optometrist’s office, butcher, and speaker store. The latter, evoking the rumbling of trains as well as the thumping bass of taxis and cars, is appropriately named “Station Vibration.”

While train stations and airports are often read as “non-places,” Park Station seems to defy this categorisation precisely because it is both transit point and terminus, a meeting place, mall, and station all rolled into one. 

This conversation, convened by WiSER, will attempt to generate a set of ideas about Park Station, its place within the city, and how it encapsulates issues such as xenophobia and hospitality, mobility and stasis.

The discussion will be anchored around a new architectural pavilion project being undertaken by Designing_South Africa and the City of Johannesburg at Park Station, which will be presented by Zahira Asmal (Director, DESIGNING_SOUTHAFRICA) and Sharon Lewis (Executive Manager: Planning & Strategy, Johannesburg Development Agency). 

Tuesday, 7th October 2014

WiSER Seminar room,
6th Floor, Richard Ward Building,
East Campus, Wits University