There is a buzz in Cape Town on the possibilities of design thinking, doing and living leading a transformation role in the city. But what does Cape Town, with its legacy of spatial segregation through the Group Areas Act of 1950, massive movement restrictions and a burgeoning post-apartheid divide between the rich and the poor, know about design? How can we claim to be a city displaying transformation through design if we lived such divided lives? And what does Cape Town have in common with world class cities and previous World Design Capital winners Turin/Torino, Italy (2008 winner), Seoul, Korea (2010 winner) and Helsinki, Finland (2012 winner)?
The core proposal driving the bid seems to be simple but powerful. According to the World Design Capital 2014 website,
Cape Town’s bid was not about the city claiming that it is already an established ‘design capital’, but instead it was a bid to acknowledge that we are using design thinking as a tool for transformation…
Contemporary Cape Town is a tale of two cities: one a postcard narrative of wild beauty and sophisticated cosmopolitanism, the other a story of poverty and urban degradation….
In the past we were divided by design – by the social engineering of the apartheid era. It is by design, and a reshaping of the cityscape, that a safer, more efficient and inclusive home for all our residents is being forged…
… It is also a chance for Cape Town to help articulate design-based solutions to challenges faced by the 90% of the world’s populations that live in the developing world.
The prestigious accolade of World Design Capital is awarded by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design every two years. It recognises that “the future success of each city is therefore largely reliant on those who plan, design and manage the shared spaces and functions of their city”.
The Alliance of community organisations and social networks Informal Settlement Network (ISN) and Federation of the Urban and Rural Poor (FEDUP) and support organisations CORC, uTshani Fund and iKhayalami saw this as an opportunity to display, on a global stage, how communities go about designing, inhabiting and reproducing spaces that increase accessibility and productivity of poor people in the city. Informal settlements present the lived spaces of more than 30% of City’s population.
Cape Town Design NPC, the implementation agency for World Design Capital Cape Town 2014 (WDC 2014), announced the official list of programmes on 31 October 2013. 1,253 projects were submitted over a 10-month window consisting of two calls for public submissions. After rigorous curating and evaluation, the official list of 450 projects was announced.
In the first window of submission, different Alliance organisations submitted four project proposals to the WDC2014 committee. We are excited to report that all four projects have been officially acknowledged by the World Design Capital 2014 committee and these will form part of the official programme.
|Re-blocking of Mtshini Wam
|CORC and ISN/FEDUP and the City of Cape Town
|Re-blocking Mtshini Wam showcases the co-production value in upgrading informal settlements. Once threatened through evictions, the community initiated a self-design process that re-organised shacks into “clusters” with safer and more dignified public spaces, making way for the City install basic services.
|Langrug informal settlement upgrading
|CORC and ISN/FEDUP and Stellenbosch Municipality
|Langrug is located on the picturesque hills of Mont Rochelle nature reserve, Franschhoek home to a very poor community. Langrug in-situ upgrading has drawn local and international attention. A path towards regularisation and development now exists due to the community design interventions.
|Solid Waste Network
|Solid Waste Network, CORC and ISN/FEDUP
|The Solid Waste Network, a collective of 350 informal waste pickers, creates an interface between communities and industry. It removes 40 – 60 tonnes of solid waste from the stream each month and provides a steady income stream for poor people. The unique design of the programme puts people first.
|Community led spatial design and reconfiguration of informal settlements both pre and post disaster
|iKhayalami and ISN/FEDUP
|The spatial reconfiguration of informal settlements to those that are more rationalized leads to social cohesion, shelter upgrade and infrastructural improvements . It builds community, acknowledges the positive aspects of informality & helps bridge the urban divide including not removing the poor.
Note: Use the shortcodes to search where the projects are positioned in the Programme Calendar.
According to the Programme Calendar, Mtshini Wam (#238) and iKhayalami (#236) proposals are year long programmes. The projects have already received news coverage in popular newspapers such as the Cape Argus. At the same time, communities in informal settlements continue to showcase their design potential. In many ways, here lies the potential to rethink and redesign our cities: starting from a bottom-up approach. When the international community considers Cape Town’s design culture, informal settlements will be central to the global spotlight.