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July 01, 2011

Cape Town: A City Transformed Through Design

low cost housing

Photo provided by the Design Indaba

In a city as vibrant, culturally enriched and inspiring as Cape Town, one might wonder just what exactly design could do to enhance and transform it? The short answer to that question is: plenty!

Having recently been shortlisted as one of three cities competing for the World Design Capital 2014 title, the Mother City is in a prime position to not only change her physical appearance, but to connect her residents and improve their quality of life through design.

This is the strong message at the core of our bid, the theme of which is “Live Design. Transform Life”. The 465-page Bid Book was compiled by the Cape Town Partnership, mandated by the City of Cape Town, and submitted to the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design in Canada.

Zayd Minty, Cape Town Partnership’s Creative Cape Town programme director, says, “Bidding for World Design Capital 2014 is our city’s opportunity to use the energy of our present to re-imagine and reposition ourselves as a city which can use design to overcome our past, reconnect as people, and take us into a new future – a city poised to make an impact economically and socially. Hence the theme ‘Live Design. Transform Life’.”

Design doesn’t just have an aesthetic role to play. Design is the catalyst for change. For far too long, there has been a division in our communities and our people. The more fortunate citizens fear socialising in the poorer neighbourhoods, while the less fortunate deem the city too far away and far too expensive to enjoy.

These deep-seated issues are a legacy of apartheid and affect our day-to-day experiences. Now is the time to rectify these misconceptions and the city has been steadily taking steps to do so.

Commuting from the townships, northern suburbs and Cape Flats into Cape Town has been turned into a safer and easier trip thanks to projects like the Mitchell’s Plain Public Transport Interchange, the restoration of the Cape Town station and the recently launched rapid bus system. The roadways along this route, built specifically for buses, allow the MyCiTi buses to transport commuters from Table View and surrounds, as well as from the airport to the city.

Urban upgrading in the townships, especially Khayelitsha and Gugulethu, has resulted in, among others, the building of community centres that offer the residents a place to work, play and learn.

Public spaces have also been given the design treatment through the City of Cape Town’s Dignified Places Programme, and you will find renovated areas to socialise, often with little gardens, park benches and street lamps, in previously neglected areas like Hanover Park, Manenberg, Langa, Weltevreden Valley and others. A project that ties in with both urban upgrading and the renovation of public spaces is the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading project in Khayelitsha, which focuses on improving the townships by creating safe areas.

Winning the World Design Capital 2014 title will open up a world of possibilities for Cape Town. The work that we are already doing to improve our city will be further enhanced with innovations and infrastructure designed to accommodate the various design-related events we will host during our year-long tenure, should we win.

Exciting times lie ahead and Cape Town aspires to be a city truly transformed by design.


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