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July 16, 2010

Cape Town prepares bid to become 2014 World Design Capital

olduvai gavin younge

“Olduvai” by Gavin Younge at the Cape Town International Convention Centre. Photo courtesy Warren Rohner

With the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ now a pleasant memory, the City of Cape Town is not sitting around asking “What now?” Instead, it is preparing to bid to become the World Design Capital in 2014.

The World Cup events and celebrations have held up a mirror to the city of all that Cape Town can be: a place where a diverse population can come together in mutual respect and creativity, enjoying and accessing all that the city has to offer.

Some of the infrastructure investment towards the World Cup – the pedestrian walkways and bridges, the cycle paths, the Cape Town Station upgrade, the beginnings of an Integrated Rapid Transport (IRT) system, the urban parks, the upgrading of public squares, and the inclusion of public art – have demonstrated how design can impact on the way citizens use and engage with the city.

But there are many other examples, including those outside of the central business district, which reveal how design is increasingly understood and used to address urban challenges.

This is what the World Design Capital competition aims to promote – the solution-finding, transformative potential of design.

The World Design Capital award is conferred by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) on cities that use design for social, cultural and economic development. It is a global competition run biennially.

The title will give Cape Town a chance to showcase its design achievements, knowledge, expertise and aspirations through a year-long programme of design-led events and activities, just as World Design Capital for 2010, Seoul, is currently doing.

In 2014, Cape Town will mark 20 years of democracy, 20 years after apartheid. Apartheid was designed to be divisive and discriminatory. In Cape Town, this meant forced removals from the city centre and the destruction of communities living there. Railway lines and buffer areas between communities. Urban sprawl. The majority of Capetonians alienated and marginalised – living far from places of employment and economic opportunities. Separate education and public amenities.

The post-apartheid years have called on the city to reverse these divisions and address the challenges that have resulted from them. The work of some local architects and urban designers on public sector projects is transforming parts of the city into places that work for their communities.

The city has also begun to develop a vision for the future, evident in various state and private urban development projects. Recently, the City Council proposed a future city where a “diverse population ... contributes to a unique blend of positive influences for creativity, mutual respect, employment and entrepreneurship. All will feel included and empowered to identify, solve and meet their own and their communities’ needs. The city will be compact and highly urban with many, small, diverse neighbourhood precincts of unique culture and heritage, with vital, integrated centres of opportunity.”

Designers and creatives can play a significant role in achieving this vision.

Cape Town has some strong design assets. It is host to fabulous designers and globally recognised designs – in graphics, film animation, advertisements, furniture, jewellery, ceramics, fabrics and clothing. The city is also host to major events, such as Design Indaba, Cape Town International Jazz Festival and the Loerie Awards, to name a few.

The Cape Craft & Design Institute (CCDI), the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s (CPUT) unique Faculty of Informatics and Design, Creative Cape Town and Bandwidth Barn all integrate and promote thinking that unlocks creative potential.

Putting together a bid for this status will mobilise Cape Town to consider how design can assist in addressing the city’s challenges.

As part of its bid, Cape Town is also looking to establish an innovation hub, focused on design, in the east part of the central city. This location is strategically placed between the main hub of creative industries and Woodstock, in which there is a growing interest. 

These are just some of the many local initiatives that reflect design commitment and energy. But we need to marry these to the opportunities offered by private and public sector developments and resources.

We can only do this effectively if we embrace a design culture – one in which we automatically look to design to address the challenges we continue to face, transforming Cape Town into a city that works for all its citizens.

And this means mobilising people around design.

For more information on World Design Capital, please visit www.worlddesigncapital.com.

To find out more about Cape Town’s bid for World Design Capital, please visit www.capetown2014.co.za.

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