23 October 2011 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Live design, transform life

It’s been all over the news; Cape Town has been named World Design Capital for 2014. The announcement was made recently at the International Design Alliance (IDA) Congress in Taipei.

The World Design Capital 2014 title will result in a year-long programme of design-focused events that will see design used for social, economic and cultural transformation. Cape Town’s bid was based on creating an inclusive city by using design thinking in its urban development plans.

The World Design capital concept is all about design that is driven by the need to address challenges - not just produce pretty products. It’s about better lives and is summed-up in Cape Town’s campaign slogan: “live design, transform life”. As Cape Town Executive Mayor Patricia de Lille said on accepting the award, “a city belongs to its people and it must be designed for and with them and their communities.”

Earlier this year, I was inspired by projects that use design to better people’s lives at the 2011 Design Indaba, an annual event in Cape Town. Francis Kéré  for example, is an architect from Burkina Faso who focuses on low cost building and self-building, using local material like clay bricks, producing buildings that are beautiful and practical. Fibra, a product design studio from Brazil, created a new plywood-like material, called pupunha playwood made from the waste products of the palm heart industry. Joseph Saavedra’s project, Citizen Sensor, aims to empower the general public to measure environmental quality through a DIY and open-source data collection platform and, Christine Goudie takes concepts and applies them in a social context, in particular to wheelchair seating design.

Speaking about the benefits of receiving the World Design Capital award, de Lille said that “The World Design Capital designation gives cities like Cape Town additional motivation to actively think of transformative design in development plans.”

The bidding process was started by the Cape Town Partnership over a year ago. They produced a 465-page bid book, which was formally submitted to the International Council for Societies of Industrial Design (ICSID) in Canada. Past winners include Torino, Seoul and Helsinki.

Cape Town has long focused on positioning itself as a creative hub, as Sarah Britten points out in her blog on the role of creativity as a driver of innovation and economic activity. In addition to its creative credentials, Cape Town is still all about contested spaces, with different communities relating differently to the city and to each other. This is common throughout South Africa, where public and private spaces were designed over decades to divide people. Since the advent of democracy, though, there are efforts to bring people together, to create sustainable cities and real social inclusion.

You can view Cape Town’s winning video, premiered in Taipei at the IDA Congress and the video that helped Cape Town to clinch the World Design Capital 2014 title.

Other platforms for support include a Facebook page: Cape Town for World Design Capital, a Twitter feed: CapeTown2014 and the Twitter hash tag: #WDC2014.

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