[Top: land-use patterns in Johannesburg, shaped by the trace of mines, mine dumps, and tailings ponds, via Bing maps; bottom: a drive-in movie theater, now closed, on top of the Top Star gold mine dump in Johannesburg, photographed by Dorothy Tang]
Last year, because reading thesis blogs is one of Stephen and I’s favorite (and nerdiest) pastimes, there were several student projects at Harvard that caught our eye — we published a piece on one of them, Andrew TenBrink’s Staging Ground, in the fall, and have a couple more that we still intend to write about. One project that fell into the former group (projects that we thought were particularly interesting), but not the latter (projects we intend to write about) was Dorothy Tang’s “Cities of Gold”, a study of the complex interrelationship between the gold mining industry and contemporary land use in Johannesburg’s “gold belt”. Together with architect Andrew Watkins, Tang has just published a large chunk of this research at Places, in a narrative slideshow which veers from on-the-ground exploration of the informal settlements that have been built on abandoned mining grounds throughout the gold belt, to diagrammatic explanation of the gold industry’s return to their abandoned grounds in search of further, to noting how the desire to ameliorate wind-blown dusts from mining operations led the city to plant what is effectively a new forest — an urban forest of imported and alien species — on land which had never before supported a forest.
It is well worth reading the full narrative.