Guy Tillim Jo’burg, The roof of Sherwood Heights 2004–5

Guy Tillim
Jo’burg, The roof of Sherwood Heights 2004–5
Framed photograph; archival pigment ink on cotton paper

Courtesy the artist and Michael Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town

In an urban context, diversity - the level of variety within a city – is usually interpreted as its ethnic and racial composition. But diversity has a much broader range of indicators: the spread of ages and incomes, education levels, the range of employment sectors, and people born in the city versus newcomers.

When cities grow to accommodate new people they test the human capacity for coexistence, whether the newcomers are from outlying rural areas or the other side of the world. Diversity can affect a city’s social cohesion in different ways. It can foster a degree of integration amongst people from diverse backgrounds, celebrating tolerance and coexistence. On the other hand, it can equally engender segregation, with diverse groups coexisting separately, leading to a potential for social conflict and confrontation.

Urban segregation can take various physical forms, from fortified residential districts to business enclaves; while urban integration can foster vibrant and mixed quarters, catering to the cultural, social and economic needs of particular constituencies. Better integrated cities are designed around shared facilities, such as public parks or accessible public transport systems, and a more continuous urban grain that connects rather than separates communities. A variety of different patterns are examined here, with reference to five of the exhibition’s ten cities: Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, São Paulo and Shanghai.