Cool idea, but where’s the buzz?

Arts Portal

Two months into Cape Town’s reign as World Design Capital and Joe and Joanne Public are not sure what it’s about, says Lucinda Jolly.

Cape Town - In January Cape Town celebrated its official status as the first African city to be nominated World Design Capital, a biennial event, with a light show on the Grand Parade.

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The Water Cathedral involves a life-sized interactive water cathedral to raising awareness on the scarcity of water.The Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is an educational tool for the Afro Montane forest which loops its way up, into and over the Arboretum at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Picture: Adam Harrower

The city beat Bilbao and Dublin to the title, was preceded by Taipei, Helsinki and Seoul, and will be succeeded by Torino in 2016.

The World Design Capital is an initiative of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, an international non-governmental organisation that aims to protect and promote the profession of industrial design. Since its beginning 57 years ago, it has worked at increasing the “social significance of design” with the idea that global leaders will begin to recognise its importance.

The council also recognises that over 50 percent of the world’s population live in urban areas. As a result, cities will need to adapt to the needs of their growing populations and make them “more attractive, livable and more efficient “

World Design Capital Cape Town has four major themes: the promotion of African ideas in a global context; design used to reconcile communities; sustainability; and projects that involve beautiful spaces and things.

On paper this is good news for Cape Town. Visitor numbers should rise, there will be opportunities for our creative communities to get involved in a variety of roles such as exhibitors, speakers, delegates, partners and suppliers. And of course lots of events for all Capetonians to experience.

But two months into the World Design Capital ask Joe and Joanne Public what they think of it and you’re met with an indifferent shrug of the shoulders. They will tell you they have heard about it but are not sure what it’s about or where it is.

Yet go to the website and a wide range of over 400 projects are listed.

This is an indication of the impact that design – in its broadest context –has on our lives and how the lack of it impacts on us.

The project’s innovative approach includes most aspects of human life from a device that takes the fumbling out of condom application to references of our earliest beginnings that pose questions around the links between the development of the modern human mind and the origins of design.

This ranges from the proposed revitalisation of Valkenberg hospital to the MeerKAT Radio Telescope which is the most sensitive radio telescope in the world.

Concerns around preserving and conserving water are raised by projects such as Save our Waters, which uses various forms of media and installations and The Water Cathedral, which involves a life-sized interactive water cathedral, to raise awareness on the scarcity of water. And you can doodle for a cause with Doodle for a Difference, a community-driven project in which everyone is invited to be an artist for a good cause.

Other community outreach programmes, such as iKhaya le Langa interdependent enterprise and design initiatives are based in the “Langa Quarter” jazz and heritage precinct.

And the Maboneng Lalela Project Experience 2014, a unique partnership aimed at converting private homes and public spaces in townships into art galleries and art performance venues.

There’s the Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway an educational tool for the Afro Montane forest which loops up, into and over the Arboretum at Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden .

It’s not really fair to compare World Design Capital to the 2010 World Cup, an intense event which happened over a shorter period of time. Then, even if you weren’t a soccer fan, you couldn’t help being affected by the excitement.

This is not so of the World Design Capital. It’s not the quality of events, but its lack of visibility.

Yes, there is the yellow circle to indicate participation in World Design Capital, and there are also other plenty of highly visible, fundamental marketing tools like flags and bunting which could be used.

But where is the buzz? A lack of presence will work against the success of World Design Capital and it’s a great pity when you consider the vast range of interesting projects and the incredible opportunity it provides this city to prove itself to the world.

* Visit the Clock Tower At the V&A Waterfront, or see

Cape Times

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