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Situated in the bustling, overcrowded suburb of Jeppestown in Johannesburg, Gilfillan Park emerged from of a need for a functional, multi-purpose public space amidst the dense streets, office blocks, apartments and schools surrounding the site. The existing park, consisting merely of neglected lawn areas and a number of exotic trees, was re-imagined through a process of community participation to redefine its value and address the needs within the local community.
“Bjala" – a Jeppestown-based social urban enterprise situated on the periphery of the park forms an important stakeholder within the area and specifically with regards to the re-imagining of the park. Bjala was commissioned by Joburg City Parks Joburg Zoo to conduct a study with local community consultation under the direction of the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), and the City of Johannesburg.
The need for safe, recreational space for children and youth was addressed through the introduction of well-lit, well-defined playgrounds, as well as robust, multi-purpose sports facilities. Sufficient seating was incorporated within these areas to allow for mothers and spectators to comfortably observe the ongoing play and sports games. Additional important areas within Gilfillan Park include the gathering areas for nearby churches and hostels, robust skateboarding facilities, flexible lawn areas, a perimeter jogging route with outdoor gym equipment and safe ablution facilities.
The robust materiality chosen ensures the longevity of the park, catering for the large number of people using the facilities each day. The carefully selected use of colour uplifts and contributes to the park's identity and character, whilst the addition of indigenous, water-wise planting contributes environmentally, softening the harsh urban environment and providing an 'outdoor living space' which enables users to interact with a more natural environment within the city. The park has been valuable and uplifting to the local community, not only upon its completion but through the ongoing socio-economic involvement in its construction phase.