Cape Town is 2014’s world design capital – Hooray!

We (Capetonians that is) would like to invite you all to come down South in 2014 ( if you can’t make it before then that is/ …….. see earlier post on this site  

Cape Town has been named the World Design Capital for 2014.

The win for Cape Town, announced at the International Design Alliance Congress in Taipei, Taiwan, on October 26, is especially timely given that 2014 marks 20 years of democracy in post-apartheid South Africa.

“2014…is the moment when the past and the future will come together for Cape Town, in contemplation and in action,” Patricia de Lille, Executive Mayor of Cape Town, said in heracceptance speech in Taipei. ”In South Africa, cities were designed over decades to divide people. But since our new democratic era, we have been focused on trying to bring people together, to create a sustainable city that fosters real social inclusion.”

Cape Town beat Bilbao, Spain and Dublin, Ireland for the honor. Statements on why Cape Town is an appropriate choice can be found in the city’s bid for the title. In one section, for example, the authors of the bid book write, “rebuilding is taking place in low-income communities in particular, and…we are using design to alleviate the problems around social housing,” among other goals that are likely to get high international visibility and support during Cape Town’s World Design Capital year.

The economic and social benefits of being named World Design Capital begin before the title takes effect. Take Helsinki. As a result of being named World Design Capital 2012, “design is now part of Helsinki’s city strategy, the metropolitan strategy and the central government strategy,” Pekka Timonen, executive director of World Design Capital 2012 in Helsinki, said in an interviewposted on October 27 on the official web site for Cape Town’s bid to be the World Design Capital 2014.

“The government issued a statement committing their financial support, urging different government bodies to read the bid book and see where they can take a role in the project. World Design Capital isn’t about Helsinki as a city, but about our whole nation,” Timonen said in the interview.

“A new government was voted into power this summer and they have adopted the design stance of their predecessor, and a new national design project will be developed. They did this because they understand that well-being and competitiveness is created by a good design environment.”

The bid was led by the Cape Town Partnership (CTP). Member of the bid committee, architect Mokena Mokeka, says although they had hoped to win, it wasn’t expected.

Mokeka says: “We didn’t think it was in the bag. We always thought it was going to be 50-50.

“[The ICSID] could have rewarded a city that already has a strong design system or they could have given [the prize] to a city with potential.”

He says: “Our government is still learning what design is all about… Design is about transforming lives. We’re gearing towards socially-responsible design.”

Mokeka says he thinks Cape Town won because the city embraces Western design sensibilities as well as African.

“Very few cities are able to bring both sides of the world together, the first world and the third world,” he says.

Mokeka says what is needed now is for the state to not only embrace design, but to fully understand its functionality and its ability to transform society and speed up service delivery.

“Politicians need to look at design as a tool, not just as a way to make projects look pretty,” says Mokeka.

If quality design is encouraged from the beginning, such as when building RDP houses, the work of the state will be lessened and citizens’ lives will be made easier, says Mokeka.

He says: “This is a fantastic opportunity for the city. It should help us have a more critical outlook on society. The public must take this mantle that the designers have fought for and say, ‘We demand good service delivery’.

“The design challenge is not behind us – it’s ahead of us.”

The International Council for Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID)  awards the World Design Capital title every two years to a city that sees design as an engine for economic, cultural and social development. Winning cities pay 160,000 Euros to ICSID to license the title, which they hold for a year. The honor is given far in advance to allow cities to develop a year’s worth of events–as well as funding–to attract tourists, designers, and corporate sponsors, with the goal of boosting national interest and investment in design.

Photo: Derek Keats/Flickr

For more information on the award and design projects around Cape Town, visit:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s