The views in which surveys are taken hold within them power to attribute value to space. This project proposes a questioning of the value assigned to land and its virtual construction in drawings or maps. Ideally held as a series of ‘growing cartographies’ (produced as a series of simple moving GIFs), this creative piece aims to, for a fleeting view, will into existence, sight and value that which has been unseen, overlooked or folded within, under or between the visible registrations of measurable, ‘surveyable’ property. The top-down gaze of land surveys is challenged, through new strange surveys which occupy the edges, folds, tears of and undersides of maps deliberately articulating altered perspectival views into and under fascinating spaces of lesser-known value production; to potential inscribe those of unseen labouring or the fluid yet tangible value of cultural exchanges which aggregate particularly in Johannesburg’s inner city. The current plan is to focus on Ethiopian and Somali markets which occupy high-rise buildings off Jeppe St in Johannesburg, to draw out and show the unregistered value of vertical surfaces that are occupied for display, transaction and strategic positioning. These include footwear, spices and fabric shops, as well as signmarkings for wayfinding and advertising purposes. Many of these spaces are claimed insurgently, somewhat defiantly, of ideas of ‘Gross Lettable Area’, finding new surfaces for value production. The intention is not so much to survey these spaces, rather than to use what is already happening in these spaces as a spatial counteract to destabilise the power of the top-down survey The drawings that are proposed would manipulate and distort land-survey languages, to speculate new sites, and new measuring methods, of economic value production of property beyond the sterility of erf lines, square meterage, or coordinate positions. This project seeks to find and represent (albeit precariously) other elusive ‘lands’ which hold value in dynamic,messy ways which challenge colonial rationalities of valuation.

Sarah de Villiers is an architect and designer, based in Johannesburg. Her work engages with the spatially detectable abstractions of power and economy, and modes for transaction at the edges of these.  She co-leads GSA Unit 18 at the Graduate School of Architecture, University of Johannesburg and is the director at SpaceKIOSK.