The City of Cape Town promised to “recognise design as a tool for social, cultural and economic development” as the WDC2014. But criticism has surfaced that high-end design dominated the scene and the lives of the poor remain unaffected. We asked some of the role players what they thought.

 Bulelwa Makalima Ngewana – CEO, Cape Town Partnership

“Live Design. Transform Life” came out of a desire to move Cape Town from its current design as an apartheid city, as many South African cities are, into a city that would be more socially cohesive.

The City of Cape Town now has a special department that ensures that the implementation of the Integrated Development Plan for the city is led by design thinking.

The Cape Town Partnership had nine projects approved for WDC and we’ve implemented them all, from green clusters to our publication Molo to the Design Dialogues, which showcase creativity. We’ll drive these for as long as we have resources and partners.

WDC2018 includes architect Luyanda Mpahlwa from DesignSpaceAfrica in its selection panel. This means that Cape Town is part of an exclusive global network – and we will continue to share lessons and experiences.

Cape Town Partnership


Rashiq Fataar – CEO, Future Cape Town

The City has become less isolated in its approach to tackling city design issues, and has come to see itself as a key place within a global urban laboratory.

Cape Town would benefit from WDC2014 if it developed a long term creative hub, where centralising activities and information could have a more lasting impact.

While some existing projects have been highlighted, perhaps more could have been done to promote and communicate new or newer projects.

Future Cape Town
Density Syndicate


Stephen Lamb – CEO design-change

While the WDC2014 seems to have done an excellent job of marketing and branding Cape Town as a tourist destination, it has done little of what it was mandated to do.

The power of open-sourced, community-based design alternatives was wilfully ignored by the City and the WDC. “Transformative design” is by definition premised on the free and liberated mind prevailing over the constraints of local political agendas.

But in coveting the WDC2014 title, the City was able to control and streamline the real power of people-centred design into a pre-determined political outcome. Existing white privilege dominated the design landscape and inclusive co-design was applied as a convenient afterthought.

Policy-driven change in the informal housing sector remains unchanged. This has not done the word “design” much good.



Y TsaiFounder Tsai Design Studio

We understood that WDC2014 was to be a catalyst. WDC2014 should have changed the mindset of government and integrated the value of design into the process of city making. It should change the mindset of designers, who often see “design for social impact” as a pro-bono project. WDC2014 should also change the idea among ordinary citizens that design is about brands and cars.

The City of Cape Town, under the Mayor’s direction, is pushing to try to put design to the test. But the test is to see more self-initiated and community driven projects continue beyond 2014.

The weakest performance has been in reaching the ordinary citizen. Most people had no idea what WDC2014 was about, except a misconception that it is an empty promise. There was a lot of background work that should have been in the spotlight.

Tsai Design Studio


Aditya Kumar –  Researcher, Community Organisation Resource Centre

Up to this point we’re not sure exactly what we were supposed to do with WDC2014. We haven’t seen much of a change in mindset in the City. They don’t really know how to engage with this issue. They just think it’s like everything else, to put up a few pictures and leave a message.

In a lot of informal areas, there are many talented people who are excellent design thinkers, especially regarding settlements and their structures. But there was never any forum for them. Instead it was focused on the city centre, on a certain class and audience.

We hoped WDC2014 would open up a space where we could start doing things without having to talk to a whole bunch of departments – but it hasn’t provided this opportunity to fast-track change.

Community Organisation Resource Centre


Richard Perez  – Director of WDC2014, City of Cape Town

This year WDC2014 has positioned the conversation about design at the highest political structures within both the City of Cape Town (CoCT) and national government of the Western Cape.

Through our Ward project programme we have undertaken over 40 co-design workshops throughout the year covering all 111 wards. These are examples of how design can be used as a tool for citizen engagement and co-creation. The outcomes of these workshops have been conceptual designs of which some have already started to be implemented.

The actual year is important whilst the global spotlight is upon us – but the real benefits will be seen beyond 2014.

World Design Capital

 The full feature appears in the December-January 2014/5 issue.