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August 08, 2011

Live Design. Transform Life. Cape Town for World Design Capital 2014

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Cape Town is on the shortlist for the World Design Capital 2014. It now stands alongside just two other cities – Dublin (Ireland) and Bilbao (Spain) – in the race to earn the World Design Capital title. The announcement is pivotal for Cape Town’s reputation as a destination that has adopted design for transformation and social cohesion.

Cape Town Tourism is a proud supporter of the bid for World Design Capital 2014 and will be featuring a series of inspiring, design-focused blogs.

We sat down to chat with Iain Harris, MD of Coffeebeans Routes, tour operating company with a niche in creative and cultural urban experiences.

What makes Cape Town a great design city?
So many design problems means so many design solutions. It’s a great place for designers because there is no shortage of design solutions needed for the city as an entity, and no shortage of natural, social and urban sites to provide the inspiration. It is a meditative city, with plenty of spaces of refuge, and that makes it an ideal creative playground.

How does Cape Town inspire your work?
This is a city where anything is possible, where life happens between the lines. It’s a difficult city to pin down, it defies definitions. It’s a city of interpretation. I love that. It inspires me on the one hand because so much is possible, and on the other because so little is changing. I am inspired by the need to work harder and faster, and the city this can be if that happens.

You have written for Cape Town Tourism before that the Cape Flats is the centre of Cape Town – not the fringe that the apartheid design intended the area to be. What inspires this thinking?
The Cape Flats was created as a dumping ground for black citizens. If we continue to see the area as that it’s impossible to change both the mindset and the reality. By reimagining the Cape Flats, the townships, as the centre, or perhaps better as central rather than peripheral, it changes how we relate. The reality today is that Cape Town is a big city, and townships are not fringes, they are major nodes of life and business. By imagining them at the centre of the city we think differently about the resources that exist in them, we see differently the way they could connect to the rest of the city. I can imagine a Nobu in Guguletu, a Ronny Scotts Jazz Club in Khayelitsha, a Daddy Long Legs Hotel in Langa, a Waterfront in Manenberg.

The Coffeebeans Routes’s Township Futures tour is all about showcasing the major transformations taking place in the townships. If you had to single out some of these projects, which would you urge all visitors to see?
People have to visit the Manenberg Waterfront. The project is developing slowly but steadily, built step by step by the communities of Manenberg. The land was donated by Consol glass, which has a sand mining operation nearby, and it is a prime site, on the water, with incredible –- and different – views of Table Mountain. It’s an amazing example of civil mobilisation. It is envisioned as a leisure and retail precinct that acts as a buffer zone, drawing people from Manenberg, Guguletu, Lansdowne, Hanover Park and Nyanga.

There are presently no zones in these areas that draw all the neighbourhoods together, so the Manenberg Waterfront can play a pivotal role in geographic and social transformation in the area. Every time we visit there is something new. I can imagine this as a hub, together with the Athlone Tower Precinct and the Waterfront, creating unprecedented linkages in the city.

The other space is the Athlone Tower Precinct, another important buffer zone. Formerly a power station, the precinct separates Pinelands, Langa and Bridgetown, white, black and coloured areas under apartheid town planning, and still largely the same. The precinct has the potential to create an integrative zone where Capetonians can find each other across the boundaries. And, if the sewerage works across the freeway can be removed, an incredible urban park is waiting to please us. Part of the existing sewerage works is a green zone with lakes and ducks and it can be expanded and connected to the precinct under the freeway, creating a zone that is leisure, retail, gardens –- and attractive to everybody in Cape Town. What a treasure. These are some of the ideas that we like to present to people as part of the tour.

Where in Cape Town do you most see people reconnected?
Many might disagree, but the Waterfront is one such space. Canal Walk, too. Ironically the spaces of the greatest mass consumerism are the spaces that gather the most of the city’s diversity. Which isn’t to say that we find each other across our perceived differences, but it does create the opportunity for that. But what is important with these two precincts is that they are within the Cape Flats, where such spaces presently don’t exist. And that they would attract all of Cape Town and not just the immediate neighbourhoods. That is crucial for the future of this city.

Contact Iain Harris:
Tel: +27 21 424 3572
Email: harris@coffeebeansroutes.com
Website: www.coffeebeansroutes.com

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Please submit your blog of 300 to 500 words to marisah@capetown.travel along with any high-resolution images that you would like featured.

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