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March 01, 2011

What makes Cape Town a great design city

esign indaba 2011

Design Indaba 2011 in Cape Town. Photo courtesy Ingrid Sinclair

Recently we asked you – and a host of top design minds – what makes Cape Town a great design city. We were blown away by the response: Many wrote on our Design Indaba stand. Elvida Maarman, our supervisor for central and coast regions, wrote a blog.

I took a look around at the make-up of our city recently. The natural canvas of Cape Town – the creeping flatlands of the Cape Flats, the rising barrier of Table Mountain National Park, the sweeping shoreline that hugs our peninsula, the delicate paint strokes of our lush flora and unique fauna – is inspiring. Our winelands, wheat lands, fruit and olive groves, and seaside villages create the contrasts that excite minds and animate spirits – it’d be hard not to be moved by all that lies around us.

The natural features of our landscape, from sandstone to our national flower, the protea, in all its forms and shapes, make for a plethora of inspiring colours, styles and backdrops. Let’s take architecture and the rise of new buildings within our city centre and other centres across the metropole by way of example. Colours in all their variety are splashed on Bo-Kaap walls high above the city; sand-coloured buildings get tucked into the City Bowl, mingling and blending with the surrounds as though they had been there forever; swanky new establishments settle along an already lavish seafront or in affluent areas like Bishops Court – so many personalities and their derivatives expressing themselves across the Mother City.

Then consider our fashion: Watch African style, its sexiness, its newness, its unique spirit, set international trends. Buyers from abroad look out for the earthy and authentic, that African sense of texture, inspired by everything from spiky camel thorn trees to rustic Cape Dutch effects. The design potential in the seemingly ordinary is endless.

The walls of our apartment blocks have become canvasses, boasting examples of original urban design. Take a drive along lower Main Road in Woodstock, Salt River or Observatory, or even along the straight stretch of the M5 and watch as proud pieces of street art take shape. These have become the backdrop for film shoots, movie scenes and documentary sites – design come to life. Lived design.

Cape Town offers the space to breathe, to open out into other design spaces: Nothing is constricted to just one form of expression. Our hotels are becoming design hubs, art becomes a form of meditation, conventional theatre turns to movement and street parades. Meetings have moved from their “still life” approach, instead opting for mountaintops, conference calls by the poolside, breakaway rooms that spread across the city – or relaxed evening encounters.

Cape Town is the new home of the Loeries, the childhood home of the Design Indaba, and our design playground. As Capetonians we create on a daily basis: Take a look at what you’re wearing, where you’re going after work and who may come with you. Now ask yourself why you’ve made every single one of those choices. It’s in the design.

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