(W)Escaping the challenges of the city: a critique of Cape Town’s proposed satellite town

Cirolia, L. R. (2013). (W)Escaping the Challenges of the City: a Critique of Cape Town’s Proposed Satellite Town. Urban Forum, 25(3), 295–312. doi:10.1007/s12132-013-9212-2

Cape Town
Publication type
Scientific article (peer-reviewed)
CityLab Programme
DOI Title
(W)Escaping the Challenges of the City: a Critique of Cape Town’s Proposed Satellite Town
Urban Forum
1015-3802 1874-6330
Liza Rose Cirolia
Published year
Geography, Planning and Development Urban Studies
Cape Town New towns African Cities Utopian planning Participation WesCape South Africa Urban edge New cities



Much of the current planning discourse has come to reject master planned ‘new cities’ as both unrealistic and undesirable. However, with growing urbanisation challenges in the Global South, master planned cities, suburbs and communities have come back on the agenda driven by both public and private interests. This paper explores the WesCape Development (WD), a proposed satellite suburb to be located north-west of Cape Town, South Africa. Situating the WD in a longer lineage of utopian and new city planning approaches, I argue that the proposal is deeply flawed. Rather than being the solution to the urban ills facing Cape Town, it is an ‘anti-urban’ strategy which supports suburbanisation and assumes a particular and problematic urban growth scenario. It relies on ‘environmentally deterministic’ assumptions and depoliticised and deinstitutionalised designs. Ultimately, it tries to escape, rather than confront, the operational, political and social challenges of the city leading to the devaluation of planning instruments and citizenship engagement. The WD highlights the importance and power of radical and utopian thinking as well as the necessity of grounding and situating these impulses in the specificities and complexities of the city.

Related publications