Influence of spatial planning on urban space economies: Two case studies from Johannesburg, South Africa

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


This research explores the influence of spatial planning on urban space economies using two case studies from Johannesburg in South Africa. The two precincts, Sandton central in the north of Johannesburg and Jabulani CBD in Johannesburg’s south, were selected to represent two distinct processes of urban spatial transformation, with one featuring a heavier private-sector, market-led processes of development, and the other shaped more strongly by public-sector action. The study began by tracking the historical processes of spatial transformation in each node using a combination of historical, archival and spatial analytical approaches. This then enabled an identification of key actors and agencies shaping transformation, and, through in-depth interviews with key stakeholders, a closer examination of the shifting spaces and roles of spatial planning in the mediation of spatial outcomes. The research unpacks the complexity inherent in urban spatial transformation, and the deeply entangled nature of public and private sector action. In Sandton central, where private sector was presumed to have played a dominant role, it was demonstrated that planning action was also present, playing diverse and adaptive roles. In Jabulani CBD, a stronger public-sector role was apparent, but this action was originally disjointed and fragmented. As a result, the role, and influence of spatial planning vis-à-vis other actors was fluid and difficult to determine at times, or complex and fragmented at others. Despite this complexity, fragmentation and diversity, there emerged some coherence in planning action over time as multiple and seemingly disjointed aspirations, processes and projects accommodated each other, or as contested perspectives were mediated, and as disjunctures were identified and resolved.The research also critiques the methodological attempt to isolate or privilege specific roles, actors or influences, due to the deeply entangled, interlinked and relational nature of urban spatial transformation. Instead, it proposes a shift in focus to process and context in urban spatial development, and a deeper exploration of the adaptive approaches applied by various assemblages of actors, agencies and processes as they seek to mediate among competing visions, identify and resolve disjunctures, and adapt to new realities.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Award date7 Jul 2020
Place of PublicationJohannesburg
Publication statusUnpublished - 2020

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute


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