World Cup prompts mapping initiatives in Johannesburg

Identity is a big thing in South Africa. Making real the notion of the rainbow nation is on the minds of designers, activists and politicians alike as the diverse and cosmopolitan African nation prepares to host the Fifa World Cup, which kicks off on Friday.

But for Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city, identity is taking an interesting turn. It is about creating a sense of place and the city authorities are turning in part to map design to help achieve it.

Johannesburg has no real centre – just a series of leafy districts. It has no river, canal or sea to orientate round, just a railway crossed by the landmark Nelson Mandela Bridge, completed in 2003 by Danish architect Dissing and Weitling, and the earlier Queen Elizabeth Bridge. And public transport is haphazard.

Given this scenario – and some 500 000 football fans expected in Johannesburg this month – local tourism branding group Moja Marketing has worked with the City of Johannesburg to create a series of maps and guides to help visitors and the ’ambassadors’ shepherding them.

Apart from helping fans to and around the city’s two stadiums – Ellis Park and the revamped and rebranded Soccer City on the edge of the Soweto township – the aim is to encourage people into ’walking areas’, says James Delaney of Moja, and to steer them towards public transport and safer private cabs. ’Johannesburg has been a business destination,’ he says, ’but now it is trying to attract tourism.’

To help with this, the Moja team led by designer Sival Portal has created three main pieces/ lanyards with information ’flick packs’ containing basic details of transport, amenities and attractions for City of Johannesburg staff, police and others whose job it is to advise visitors; a transport map of the city; and a visitor map with zoom-ins around and in the stadiums, which also contains details of the new Gautrein train service and ’park and ride’ and ’park and walk’ facilities developed for the World Cup. All had to meet approval from football’s stringent governing body Fifa.

Portal says Moja took on research for the fast-track project, starting with police maps and Google maps and distilling the data. A series of icons has been created to denote cultural attractions and amenities, and colourways developed to highlight ’safe’ and ’scenic’ areas: orange for pedestrian areas and green for scenic routes.

Some of the maps feature a coloured grid, inspired by the distinctive ’mosaic’ architecture of Soccer City, designed by local practice Boogertman & Partners and sports specialist Populous. This in turn, says Portal , takes its cue from the African cooking pot – the kalabash.

Moja has already created maps for Johannesburg – as part of campaigns such as ’You make Joburg great’, created by local ad agency Pinquin International and overseen by Gavin Reed of the City of Johannesburg. But Reed maintains the World Cup has escalated the process with the maps, as with other local initiatives. In saying ’We are going to be accountable to South Africa and internationally,’ he echoes the words of others working in cities across South Africa.

’2010 has turned everything upside down,’ concludes Delaney.

Notable Joburg games

  • Johannesburg will host the first match in the 2010 World Cup – South Africa v Mexico – which kicks off on Friday
  • The city will also host the World Cup final, which will take place on 11 July

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