CEO has designs on finding stylish solutions

CT Alayne Reesberg_DONE Jonathan Jones JUST IMAGINE: Alayne Reesberg is running the Cape Town Design company which has been set up to implement the World Design Capital 2014 host city programme. Photo: Jonathan Jones

Zara Nicholson

Metro Writer

SHE’S worked in Washington DC, New York and London and with some of the world’s biggest companies while managing Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’s annual summits.

Now Alayne Reesberg is back home to run the World Design Capital (WDC) 2014 project which she says will put Cape Town’s design talent on the world map.

Last week, the city announced Reesberg as the chief executive of the Cape Town Design company, the implementing agency for the WDC projects.

With a 30-year career in some of the world’s major cities, Reesberg has seen the best in design and forward-thinking.

After graduating with a BA from UCT she taught in Mitchells Plain for a few months and then went into the foreign service as a diplomat for the UN

She was part of the South African diplomatic team that negotiated the withdrawal of the Cuban troops from Angola in the late 1980s, leading to Namibian independence.

Reesberg then went on to obtain her Master’s in Communication Theory at the University of Montana in the US.

She later landed a job at the Washington DC headquarters of global giant Microsoft.

For the next six years she managed Bill Gates’s annual Microsoft CEO Summits where she worked in what she says was an “ever-changing, fast paced, hi-tech environment”.

She later moved to London where she worked on bringing 400 businessmen and women to South Africa for the 2010 World Cup under the auspices of the Fortune Time CNN Global Forum in Cape Town. “In Cape Town we could give people a really broad experience because we have incredible natural beauty and a diverse group of people.

“I am sure we can deliver that same experience to many others. Design people are very fussy so every experience has to be loaded with meaning and that takes a lot of thought and planning,” Reesberg said.

Reesberg says design is about solutions and satisfaction and, for Cape Town in 2014, design will not necessarily be about high-end furniture, fashion or products but rather about how design can cater for the person on the street.

“One of the things I am looking for is how design can make everyday life better and I want to see different kinds of design professionals come together and pitch us an imaginative idea,” Reesberg said.

Next month, the Cape Town Design company will call for proposals from designers, architects and engineers who are keen to have a chance to showcase their work to the world.

The proposals will be evaluated and the ideas chosen will get official WDC designation.

“The city is also a very big role player and they have their concerns and we will see how we can use design to deal with issues like housing, rapid urbanisation, solid waste management and transport,” she said.

The city has set aside R40 million for WDC 2014 projects and Reesberg’s role is also to raise funds from the private sector. She estimated the company would need another R60m to implement the projects.

Cape Town will host design events throughout 2014.

[email protected]


sign up