Every second year the Regional Institutes ofSAIA (South African Institute of Architects) presents awards to its members foroutstanding work completed. This year KZNIA presented 17 awards. Four of theseare for individual houses, and five are for the various nodes on the revampedDurban beachfront. The flashy, high-maintenance, Moses Mabhida Stadium, as wellas the exquisite Moses Mabhida Railway Station, are also on the list. I haven’tactually been into all of the buildings but, from what has been illustrated,and the ones that I do know, most are not properly accessible.

I have had my eye on this awarding forarchitecture, and really feel let down that no reference at all was made of theaccessibility. Even at the Methodist Seminary, in Pietermaritzburg, no refugeareas are provided on the first floor.

I’ve written a letter to the KZNIA Journal toget it off my chest, and I thought I would share it with our readers:

“As always it was a pleasure to receive and peruse the latest Journal, highlighting the Awards this year."

I had previously asked about the criteria forthis and received a polite reply from Wally Peters confirming what was writtenin this edition, that the Vitruvian triad of ‘firmness, commodity, and delight’would be used. Who can argue with that?

However, in this publication this is elaboratedon, ‘and make energy efficiency an inescapable issue’. Reference to‘Environmentally ResponsibleDesign’ was also made. I like this approach: but why forget the part of Environment that directly concerns the users and occupiers of these builtplaces and spaces? Universal access is a legislative imperative in thiscountry, and is a particularly South African way which we understand more thananybody. We are beyond the patronizing ‘special needs’ stage that other moredeveloped countries can afford.

I can’t believe that the profession stillwants to use excuses not to do this, and thoughtlessly rely on the LocalAuthorities to catch up with what has been in our Constitution since 1996.

When will I be able to walk up straight andfeel proud of the profession’s approach to universal access? Houses in any caseare exempted from compliance. It is particularly the project called “Freedom Café’ which gets my goat, never mind the glossy jewels of Moses Mabhida, and EPA’s Investec building, which aren’t even safe for everybody.

Sad and Disappointed.

Hopefully, this willhelp get things going. Even the Institute building in Glenwood, Durban is notyet accessible. QASA demonstrated about this previously, and it is always saidthat it will be done - but later! Perhaps in 2014 for the UIA Conference? If ithad been done four years ago, when QASA demonstrated, we could have had sevenyears of accessibility there, as a showpiece of our profession’s honestintentions.