Main Article Content

An exploration of social systems as informative for urban regeneration in Potchefstroom Central Business District

Karen Puren
Gert Meiring


The future of cities undoubtedly spells change on many levels due to urban growth. One of the mechanisms used in cities to cope with change is urban regeneration. Urban regeneration has mainly been addressed through economic and planning policies geared towards physical renewal, with hardly any understanding or acknowledgment of the social dynamics underlying the physical process. Social dynamics are important to consider in urban regeneration, as they form the underlying driving forces of cities. However, little is known about these underlying forces. The aim of this research is to explore the role of social systems in the Central Business District of Potchefstroom. An ethnographical approach is used to guide the methodology, while qualitative methods (observations and interviews) are used to capture data about the social systems that are present in the study area, how these social systems interact with one another, and how they can be included in urban regeneration initiatives. The findings suggest the existence of three interactive social systems that reflect pro-social behaviour and cultural relativism which, in turn, create vitality in the study area. Social systems play a multi-levelled role in the study area. Their role can possibly inform urban regeneration by being proactive in terms of attracting new and maintaining existing social relationships; being creative in terms of adapting and changing the physical environment to address needs, and being supportive in order to unlock internal resources such as local knowledge, creativity, commitment, energy and ownership.

Keywords: complexity, Potchefstroom Central Business District, social systems, urban planning, urban regeneration, qualitative research