‘Design projects only benefit a few’

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IOL  tony ehrenreich done CAPE ARGUS Tony Ehrenreich has been warned to read up on a topic before commenting on it publicly. Photo: David Ritchie

Cape Town - World Design Capital projects will benefit citizens in “years to come” with design-led thinking, the city says, but critics say the initiative’s R40-million budget has deepened the division between rich and poor.

“It’s far more than just a year of design initiatives,” mayoral committee member for tourism Gareth Bloor said.

“For the city it is an extraordinary opportunity to embed design-led thinking into the administration. Therefore the benefits will be reaped in the years to come. There will be an impact, but this is just the beginning of that journey.”

However, Tony Ehrenreich, the ANC caucus leader in the city council, said the projects had benefited only “a few”.

African Christian Democratic Party caucus leader Grant Haskin said people at grassroots level had not benefited.

The city commissioned 450 projects under the 2014 World Design Capital banner.

Projects in each of the 111 wards were initiated by the community.

The aim of World Design Capital status is to achieve transformation in the city, using design as a tool for social, cultural and economic development.

Prominent projects have included:

* The Philippi Farming Project aimed at improving the horticultural area.

* Establishing the R2-million Gardens Skateboard Park in an eyesore space under a bridge.

* The e-Khaya shack replacement project in informal settlements, using a unique building frame, sandbag walls and an arched roof. If owners build it, the cost is R8 000.

* The Solid Waste Network, which provides an income for 350 informal waste pickers in informal settlements.

* The R1.2-million Grassy Park backyarders project which is providing toilets and sewerage and electricity connections for 161 backyard homes in the grounds of council-owned blocks of flats.

Priscilla Urquhart, spokeswoman for Cape Town Design NPC, the company overseeing the World Design Capital programme, said the projects highlighted the non-traditional element of design.

“The World Design Capital (status) has provided a platform for conversations, initiatives and challenges to be focused around how the city should or could be designed. The expectation is not that this is delivered in 2014, but that the year is a catalyst for new ideas to move the city forward.”

International media attention had led to tourists flocking to Cape Town.

“Cape Town has been covered by the most influential design publications who have written incisively about our context. The New York Times, Wallpaper, Icon, Metropolis and others have done in-depth reporting on a city that is determined to use design as a problem-solving methodology to address the problems of the past.”

Ehrenreich said none of the projects were new.

“Existing projects and upgrades have been simply made part of the World Design Capital (programme). These could have been done without the WDC 2014.”

Although people had benefited, most of them were the “rich and elite in old white suburbs”.

The R40m being spent was increasing the division between rich and poor communities, “instead of bringing people together”.

“The city’s idea of bringing people together is building a bus or cycling route that merely connects from a poor area to a rich area where the economic opportunities are. Integrating people speaks to living in the same area and sharing the same resources.

“It’s meant merely for clever white people. Those who can think with design. That is why they have been benefiting from this most.”

The ACDP’s Haskin said: “This award was an honour for the city and it was not used to its full potential.

“People in Blue Downs, Macassar or Delft did not know about this.

“The World Design Capital 2014 was targeted at established designers, not at those on grass-roots level. The strategy was wrong or it was not implemented properly.”

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Cape Times


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