Cape Town ready to be new global 'capital of design'

CAPE TOWN – Next year, Cape Town will take over from Helsinki as the World Design Capital – a biennial promotion that celebrates the merits of design. It outbid Bilbao and Dublin to the title.

Next year also marks 20 years since the end of apartheid and the start of full democracy in South Africa. With this in mind, Cape Town's bid focused on using design to bridge the social and geographic divides that apartheid imposed.

The chief executive of Cape Town Design – the organisation formed to deliver the city's World Design Capital plans – is Alayne Reesberg. She says Cape Town was completely disconnected under apartheid.

"It is through design, not chance, that we can work to reshape the cityscape to a safer, more efficient and inclusive home for all our residents," Reesberg says.

Themes for the year-long event are "African Innovation. Global Conversation", "Bridging the Divide", "Today for Tomorrow" and "Beautiful Spaces. Beautiful Things".

Cape Town has been working hard to break barriers since Nelson Mandela spoke on the steps of its city hall after his release from prison in 1990.

South Africa's successful hosting of the 2010 World Cup football tournament meant better transport, cycling and walking facilities in Cape Town.

A stadium and surrounding Greenpoint Park and Biodiversity Garden were built. And the historic Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is now connected by paths to neighbouring Green Point and Sea Point.

Now Cape Town wants to shine as a creative city. But there is much to do to make the city more inclusive.

Cape Town Design is coy about specifics until its programme is announced this month, but projects will range from small (painting a wall yellow to brighten an environment, for instance) to significant, such as creating township parks, transport and sporting facilities.

For visitors, Woodstock is Cape Town's creative heart, still rough around the edges but vibrant with ideas. The Old Biscuit Mill, a late 19th-century building, is home to designers, artists and photographers and has markets and farm stalls.

Designer stores there include Exposure Gallery, a "photographic concept store"; Clementina ceramic studio which sells works by South African potter Clementina van der Walt and others; Kat van Duinen, a designer who makes pieces from second-hand finds, and Heartworks, which simply states: "We make things".

The Woodstock Foundry is a mix of stores, galleries, restaurants and workshops. Look for the Southern Guild, which features local designers and artists.

The Woodstock Exchange houses a similar mix of retailers and restaurants. Here you will find Dark Horse, designer Lise du Plessis's furniture, homewares and tailored accessories shop "for seasoned travellers".

The Woodstock Co-op opens this month two doors from The Old Biscuit Mill. It will be a market for furniture, clothing, artworks, jewellery and industrial and product designers. Each store space within the co-op will be made into an art installation.

To the west of Woodstock is The Fringe, Cape Town's "innovation district". Fanning out from Buitenkant Street, it will be central to World Design Capital events. It is already home to many creative enterprises, including the Cape Craft and Design Institute and the Cape Town Fashion Council.

Established South African design names are also expected to feature in World Design Capital events.

Porky Hefer created Cratefan, the 16.5m sculpture made using 2500 Coca-Cola bottle crates and exhibited at the V&A Waterfront since the World Cup. Liam Mooney makes innovative furniture, lighting and accessories. And Isabeau Joubert is a young art director, designer, crocheter and "yarn bomber".

Local fashion brands include Native, KLuK and CGDT and Darkie Clothing.

And Lovell Friedman's mosaic work is on city benches.

Fashionable shopping areas include Long and Kloof Streets, while De Waterkant, once part of the Malay quarter, with terraced houses and cobbled streets, is home to bespoke furniture, clothing and craftwork.

Further afield, take a township tour to Washington Street in Langa and visit the Guga S'thebe Arts and Culture Centre and the Khayelitsha Craft Market.

Cape Town's heritage will also be highlighted next year.

Impressive buildings include the Renaissance-style Cape Town City Hall; South Africa's oldest civic structure, the Castle of Good Hope, built in 1666-79; and the Old Town House on Greenmarket Square, which was built between 1755 and 1761 in Cape Dutch-Rococo style.

The Iziko Slave Lodge and museum on Church Square, built in 1679, is across from the Gothic-style Groote Kerk built in 1700.

In the Bo-Kaap, there are colourful Georgian row houses. © Google