“Live Design, Transform Life”: Cape Town Designated World Design Capital 2014

Though it’s primarily known for food, wine, shopping and beaches, Cape Town also boasts a vibrant creative community which has put its stamp on everything from fine art to architecture, interior design, landscaping, furniture, fashion, jewelry, crafts, film, and photography.

In fact, the city is so forward-thinking in the area of design that it was designated World Design Capital 2014 by ICSID, the Industrial Council of Societies of Industrial Design.

This title is awarded every two years to a different city: previous winners include Helsinki (2012), Seoul (2010), and Turin (2008).

For 2014, Cape Town beat out rival shortlisted cities Bilbao and Dublin on the strength of a bid that emphasized not only a strong existing design sensibility, but also the potential to use design as a tool for cultural, social and economic transformation.

Flowing from the theme “live design, transform life,” the focus of WDC 2014 is on projects that address the legacy of apartheid and deal with the vast imbalances that still exist in the city. Throughout the year architects, landscape designers, and urban planners will focus on ways to bridge historic divides, reconnect the city in structure and in spirit, rebuild social and economic inclusion, and guide the city toward a sustainable future.

“Design needs humanity,” according to Martin Darbyshire of ICSID. “It needs to offer real solutions for real problems. Cape Town has demonstrated a deep understanding of this in its bid by using the World Design Capital to change the legacy of design in the city. Social transformation precedes economic transformation and Cape Town put design in the center of the solution for social transformation.”

Though most events during WDC 2014 are aimed at designers and urban planners, there are a few events, tours and exhibitions that the average layman or overseas visitor to Cape Town can attend or view:

  • The Future Cape Town Design Tours (All year): These tours explore the concept of livability and sustainability through the lens of the Central City, which has undergone a regeneration spanning more than a decade. They will look at new and proposed developments; the impact of densification, including Cape Town′s new tallest building Portside; public transport infrastructure investments, including the MyCiTi bus system and the modernization of Cape Town Station; public spaces and their role in city life; the challenges and opportunities of walking and cycling; and perspectives on heritage.
  • The Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway  (All year): Snaking its way up and into and over the Arboretum at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, is the tree canopy walkway (boomslang), a gentle, sinuous, long spanning elevated walk which will educate visitors on all the elements of the Afro Montane forest.
  • Oranjezicht City Farm (All year): Oranjezicht City Farm is a neighbourhood non-profit agricultural project promoting healthy food and community. Built on a derelict former bowling green that was once frequented by homeless people and drug addicts, the beautifully redesigned space now employs many of the site’s former vagrants. The project builds social cohesion, develops skills, educates residents about food and environmental issues, and champions under-used public green spaces in the city.
  •  Accidental Art (May 1-31): At several prominent locations in Cape Town, viewers will be able to see large public artworks created by select local artists, as a visual celebration of Nando′s worldwide investment in South African art.
  • The Story of Food – From Then to Now (May 1 – Oct 31): This food indaba involves a year of interactive events that trace the evolution of design and the handmade through the story of food: in particular the vessels we use for storage, packaging, distribution, preservation and presentation of food. Themes of industrialization and consumerism will be explored, and the exhibition will highlight current issues of food security and waste.
  • Design House Exhibition: A global showing from cities around the world of their ultimate Design Houses. 22 to 30 November, Cape Town Stadium
  • Open Design Cape Town: An annual citywide cross-disciplinary celebration and sharing of design and design thinking. 9 to 17 August. opendesignct.com
  • Open Streets: A citizen-driven initiative that aims to engage everyone in re-working streets to create a more equitable, integrated, safer and vibrant city; it has a monthly Talking Streets series and organizes activities such as Open Streets Days. openstreets.co.za
  • Workshop17: An innovation hub created by the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business where inventions, prototypes and new products will be tested, along with new business models aligned to African markets. V8|A Waterfront. gsb.uct.ac.za
  • Art54: A public art exhibition that will be displayed against the dramatic backdrop of Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, part of Ward 54. Late 2013 to mid 2014. art54.co.za
  • Cape Town Tourism has created five custom tours to celebrate the four themes of WDC 2014: African Innovation, Global Conversation; Bridging the Divide; Today For Tomorrow; and Beautiful Spaces, Beautiful Things. The fifth tour combines all the themes. Check out the official Cape Town Visitor Guide for details on how to book.

The venues for some of these events have not been determined yet; for more information, please visit the World Design Council 2014 website or the Cape Town Visitor Guide.

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