Freedom Square, Kliptown, Soweto. The concept is great: a physical space that symbolises and celebrates the flowering of the seeds of freedom that were planted here in 1955. But the execution, to put it mildly, is flawed, and the subject of much creative and political controversy in the South African architectural community. The heart of the square is a vast and empty space, treeless, flowerless. The great hulks of concrete that border the square are like shoulders blocking out the light. The exterior of the Soweto Hotel looks like something out of East Berlin in the 60s, completely negating the warm and plush and welcoming interior. And the statues that represent the principles of the Freedom Charter are placed on plinths so high, you have to squint to see what they are. The great cities of the world are full of great squares and plazas that make you feel part of a community, part of a story. This was meant to be one too. And hopefully, one day, somehow, it will be.


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