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Cape Town: World Design Capital 2014

27 January 2014

“Design is all around you, everything man-made has been designed, whether consciously or not.” – George Cox


wdc2014_logo21Since the appointment of the fourth biennial World Design Capital (WDC) in 2011, Cape Town is this year the first African city designated with this prestigious award. Cape Town is South Africa’s largest city, and is known for its vibrant energy, fascinating history, quality infrastructure and lavish lifestyle. With the highest standard of living of all cities in Africa, this gateway to the continent is rich in heritage, innovation, diversity and creative talent.

The World Design Capital is an initiative of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID). Social cohesion and talent led to the inception of ICSID as an non-governmental organisation. ICSID aims to increase the social significance of design in an attempt to influence global leaders in design to recognise the merits of design, and to recognise and know the importance of design as a tool for global development.

“The World Design Capital’s designation is conferred on cities that exhibit exceptional progress using the varied tools design offers. These cities demonstrate how their government, industry, educational institutions, designers and population are working individually and in concert to revitalise and reinvent their urban environment”, as said on the WDC website. The WDC not only exhibits for global recognition but also for the importance of design to empower and enhance economic, social, cultural and environmental quality of living in the cities awarded.

Cape Town WDC 2014 provides an opportunity to showcase the approximately 450 projects officially recognised by the city, which form part of this year’s programme. City of Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille says the diversity of the final projects reflects the general determination of all Capetonians to position Cape Town as the design and creative hub of the continent. “The central thesis of the City of Cape Town’s approach to the World Design Capital 2014 is to use excellence in design, to design the change we want to see in our city, using the very building blocks of which our city is comprised. All of these projects are united by their use of design and design-led thinking to help us drive the social and economic change we want and need,” says De Lille.

The benefits of participating in WDC are manifold, including: gaining visibility by being recognised as a centre for creativity; strengthening knowledge-based economic development; taking part in an international network of design; building Cape Town’s global image as a must-see travel destination; and improving quality of life in the city, just to name a few.

Since the inception of the World Design Capital, four cities have been awarded: Torino, Seoul, Helsinki and now Cape Town.

Torino, Italy, is famously known for its tradition in the fields of engineering, design, culture, business expertise and its ongoing mission of internationalisation. The WDC has helped Torino develop close collaborations with regional cities and teach aspiring cities how to become knowledgeable about design best practices that can help to better sustain Italy. The project helped spread the culture of strategising and planning throughout Italy and left a permanent legacy.

Seoul, South Korea, is an environmentalist city refined by history and culture. It is globally known for its Information Technology infrastructures and high-tech Korean consumer products; brands such as LG, Samsung, Hyundai and Kia. The WDC project helped Seoul create and sustain dynamic forces of its brand-value and enrich its diversity and culture.

Helsinki, Finland, is “one of those cities where design is the enabler of building an open city, the booster of its social, economic and cultural development,” as said on the WDC website. Helsinki is a city of inventions, innovations and technologies, which are used for daily activities; such as its widely known brand Nokia. WDC helped Helsinki to re-establish its competitiveness to global economy through innovation, research and development.

TableMountainphotoAnd now, World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. So what are the Mother City’s goals for this momentous award and year? What stands out as most vital for the future of Cape Town’s development and growth, as a leading city in South Africa and on the African continent, is how design and innovation can be used to link communities and create a sustainable, positive future for all Capetonians – whether we live in Camp’s Bay or Khayelitsha.

Substantial design projects – such as Cape Town’s MyCiti Bus Rapid Transit System, eKhaya housing, Langa Quarter community development, CTCA Young Creatives Awards & Exhibitions and Project Isizwe – have the potentital to bridge the gap between Cape Town’s diverse and dispersed communities through safe and affordable public transportation, music, arts and cultural programmes, free Wifi for Cape Town’s low-income communities and improving housing in the city’s informal settlements.

World Design Capital Cape Town is supporting over 450 innovative projects with the aim of improving the quality of life for all residents. Below are a few projects that stood out to if i could… as real game changers in the field of social and community development:


Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.36.31 AMMyCiti: The MyCiti public bus service aims to provide safe, regular transportation to Cape Town and surrounds. Starting modestly in 2011, today the service operates over 100 buses and just announced the addition of Imizamo Yethu, Hangberg and Hout Bay to the list of communities connected to Cape Town’s city centre. After purchasing a myconnect card for R25, you can load it with money to travel and hop on and hop off at any of Cape Town’s stops.


Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.52.38 AMeKhaya: Meaning ‘home’ in isiZulu, eKhaya aims to reduce informal settlements around the city. Invented by Johnny Anderton, eKhaya is a new, environmentally friendly and low-cost housing option that can be built by anyone. The houses provide families with financial sustainability and the roof can be used to store solar power. “It is the roof that is key to the eKhaya being a game changer and the reason for that is it is a financial key it makes these homes income generating,” said Anderton.

Screen Shot 2014-01-24 at 11.37.03 AMThe Langa Quarter: A sustainable township tourism project with the aim to create jobs, social upliftment and skills development, iKhaya le Langa supports a number of co-dependent enterprises and projects. Envisioned by ‘social enterprise’ practitioner Tony Elvin, the “Langa Quarter” is a business development precinct made of 13 streets and home to 7,000 people, bringing community pride to the area and encouraging tourism, arts and culture. highlights the project, “Established in the late 1920s, Langa boasts a long and storied history and is working hard to emerge from the shadows and establish itself as one of the Mother City’s township tourist destinations. A part of the non-profit organisation’s iKhaya le Langa’s lead project, the first ever Langa Quarter Summer Market aims to encourage residents, suburbanites and tourists alike to explore this historic township as well as enjoy the vibrant culture of the area.” Keep up with the iKhaya le Langa project on their Facebook page.


964153_420342821417359_1560519912_oCTCA Young Creatives Awards & ExhibitionThe only annual, provincial art and design competition open to all Grade 11 and 12 learners in the Western Cape, the Cape Town Creative Academy’s Young Creatives Awards rewards artistic achievement with Academic Bursaries with the aim to elevate the perception of the value of art/design as subjects in high schools. Located in Cape Town’s burgeoning creative district, Woodstock, The Cape Town Creative Academy offers progressive Trans-Disciplinary tertiary education in Design, Interaction and Audiovisual studies.


140113153128-project-isizwe-wi-fi-horizontal-galleryProject Isizwe: Project Isizwe is a non-profit which aims to bring the internet to people across Africa, by facilitating the roll-out of free WiFi for public spaces in low income communities. The project has already launched free WiFi in Tshwane, a city in Guateng, offering users 250MB per day. “We’d like to show Africa, and the world, a model for how governments can provide free Internet access in low income communities, in the most frugal manner possible,” said Project Isizwe founder and CEO Alan Knott-Craig.


Design has different aspects which help communities grow exponentially. WDC Cape Town also seeks to empower the industry of design in the city, which essentially means that the youth of Cape Town can access skills development projects and become more empowered. Successful and meaningful industrial design in the Mother City requires creativity, innovation and appreciation for the craft, as well as the passion to teach others and encourage youth and community development.

“Design will always thrive where there are big challenges, and where we will always be influenced by the need to find solutions; where you don’t have resources. It is the making of a product by engaging with the community, to understand and appreciate what it is you are doing, rather than doing it for them,” says Luyanda Mphalwa, Design Space Africa Architect.


“The true value of design lies in far more than making something look nicer or work better. It’s about changing the way a business operates.” – Mat Huntered

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