Approche photographique des complexes fermés à Johannesburg

These photos are part of Karen Lévy’s PhD research (LAVUE/Université Paris Nanterre/IFAS-Recherche): Une ville moyenne pour des classes moyennes ? Discours et acteurs de la fabrique urbaine. Une étude du cas de Johannesburg, un détour comparatif par New Delhi.


The circulation of the urban model referred to as ‘gated communities’ challenges the understanding of contemporary urban spaces all over the world. Big-scale multiplication of low-cost housing such as middle-class townhouse complexes dominates South Africa’s urban and peri-urban landscape and is associated with the reproduction of apartheid geography, with its forms of spatial segregation. The aim of this photographic project is to articulate and problematise this view. The pictures of Marie Thomas-Meilhan, a French photographer and architect, were taken while conducting fieldwork in Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni on middle-class townhouse complexes for Karen Lévy’s Ph.D. research. They provide visual material and are the core of the analysis. At the same time, they are testimony to the current urban period.

The photos selected show different aspects of the newly urbanised spaces. They interrogate the nature of the space created and the territorial fragmentation that comes with it. They show the repetition of the model, the security-driven town planning and the new life that it creates, dictated by a radical division between ‘home’ and the outside world.

The photos are also showcased in the exhibition “Middle Class Life: the Repetition of the Model in Townhouse Complexes”, hosted at Origins Centre in Johannesburg, from 15 November 2018 to 31 January 2019.

> Download the booklet of the exhibition