Words by Lorraine Kearney
Cape Town joined an exclusive club of four when it signed the official host city agreement for World Design Capital 2014.
Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille and Soon-in Lee, the president of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design (Icsid), did the honours on Friday, 28 June.
Other cities in the club are Torino, Italy, which was the World Design Capital (WDC) in 2008; Seoul, South Korea, WDC in 2010; and Helsinki, Finland, which is the World Design Capital this year.
Cape Town’s official WDC2014 logo was also unveiled at the signing. Brightened by yellow, the colour that defined its bid, it signifies optimism and hope, and represents Cape Town’s urban future.
“Our aspiration for the city is to continue to provide a platform that will empower Cape Town to be a leading example on the international stage, to encourage designers from diverse backgrounds and communities to share ideas and transform objectives into realities. We have no doubt that Cape Town will bring its own unique vision to the project,” said Lee.
His sentiments were echoed by De Lille, who spoke of excellence in design as using what one had to focus on outcomes. “To become global leaders, African cities must look at what we have and work with it,” she said.
As WDC, Cape Town would be an example of this. It was time to look at housing for the poor, for example, and how design could be used to transform it. “We can produce a level of service to the poor by creating vibrant, liveable, sustainable spaces.”
Design could also make development environment-friendly.
“What is design but the application of our humanity, and the search for excellence, elegance and solutions to the problems that we face? … We use what we have to get to what we want. We change the inevitable by combining with the aspirational.”
De Lille concluded: “Above all, we sign for a new way of thinking, one that sees opportunities, not obstacles, challenges not dead-ends, and the roadway for other cities to follow in building a better future.”
The host city signing coincided with World Industrial Design Day, an Icsid initiative, and the 55th anniversary of the organisation, which marks the contribution of design to improving the quality of life for all.
It is also significant that 2014 marks 20 years of democracy in South Africa.
The way forward
It is now time to look at the nuts and bolts of being World Design Capital 2014. Lee said Icsid would support Cape Town’s programme, and would give it a global signature.
Speaking for the city, Richard Perez, the WDC2014 programme manager, said the municipality would create an enabling environment for the implementing agency to get on with the actual projects. It would look at the red tape and how this could be eased, but will have its own projects.
Luyanda Mpahlwa, the chairman of the WDC2014 Interim Advisory Board, said the next step would be starting the legal process to establish the lead company.
Bulelwa Makalima-Ngewana, the managing director of Cape Town Partnership, a partner in the initiative, spoke about setting up this implementing agency. It would be hosted by the partnership and supported by the city until it could stand on its own feet.
Icsid secretary-general Dilki de Silva said the organisation would be involved in a number of signature events. Among these would be a celebration to welcome the WDC designation, which would be handed over from the existing capital. There would also be an international design week forum to share best practice.
At heart, the idea is to reinvent the city in terms of social use; to bring about social transformation led by industrial design. Cape Town has allocated R60-million (US$7.4-million) so far to the project, and is hoping to raise more cash from the private sector.
The World Design Capital designation focuses on industrial design’s impact on urban spaces, economies and citizens. It is an opportunity for cities to feature their accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design, as well as highlight their successes in urban revitalisation strategies.
World Design Capital – what is it?
World Design Capital celebrates the achievements of cities that have used design as a tool to reinvent themselves and to improve social, cultural and economic life. In Cape Town, the theme for 2014 is Live Design, Transform Life. It will focus on encouraging people to find innovative, practical design solutions to everyday problems.
WDC was introduced by Icsid’s board to impress on cities the importance and recognition of design as a leading development tool. It works with global design networks and governments to raise awareness of design and to showcase the importance of design in enhancing the social, cultural, economic and environmental quality of life.
As a whole, the WDC designation focuses on the broader essences of design’s impact on urban spaces, economies and citizens. It is a biennial award that gives the city the opportunity to feature its accomplishments in attracting and promoting innovative design, as well as highlighting its successes in urban revitalisation strategies.
Icsid is a non-profit organisation established to protect and promote the profession of industrial design. World Industrial Design Day, held on June 29 each year, was first declared in 2007, on Icsid’s 50th anniversary, to promote awareness of industrial design.