Nominated World Design Capital 2014, Cape Town sees design as a compelling and valid force in the rediscovery and development of hidden potential that revitalises social and economic scenes.
For more than ten years now, Design Indaba has been attracting the most interesting names on the contemporary design and architecture scene to Cape Town with lecturesand national product presentations. This year, the city and its jagged coastline feature as World Design Capital, an international event organised and promoted by ICSID (International Council of Societies of industrial Design) that has visited Turin (2008), Seoul (2010) and Helsinki (2012) in recent years.
These cities see design as a compelling and valid force in the rediscovery and development of hidden potential that revitalises social and economic scenes. As in 2010, the next edition returns to Asia – Taipei to be precise. This year’s event spawned the Guild Design Fair, South Africa’s first design fair centred on limited editions, with the involvement of major international galleries such as Milan’s Rossa Orlandi, the R20th Gallery in New York, Colectivo Amore De Madre of Brazil and the Maker Library Network open-source project (presented by the V&A Museum and the British Council ConnectZA) by Jana Scholze and Daniel Charny. Spain’s Nacho Carbonell is its Featured Designer, with an outdoor installation entitled Playground Closes at Dusk.
Playground Closes at Dusk. A performance of the Handspring Puppet Company’s War Horse – a successful investigation into the design of movement – opened the fair with a little boy riding a charger-robot supported by two men who faithfully reproduce the animal’s natural movement.
The Lookout in Granger Bay is the venue for the event (studied in the tiniest detail), specially constructed with its magnificent view of the ocean and Table Mountain behind it. It is all the work of Trevyn and Julian Mc Gowan, ambassadors of South African design around the world and founders not only of the Southern Guild Foundation (annual award for the country’s best creatives) but also of the African Design Museum in Johannesburg, in the vibrant Maboneng district. “Since 2008, when we founded our gallery, we have worked to take South African design around the world”, says McGowan. “But this year we have been able to bring people here to see the work of artists such as Gregor Jenkin, John Vogel, Bronze Age and Laurie Wiid van Heerden, and discover our national production chain and the special qualities of a place with huge potential.
The Southern Guild award is presented to the design business, meaning it is conceived not only for up and coming talent or established names but also those striving to further design in South Africa and coping with the, sometimes very practical, challenges. We also support those starting out as designers, facilitating their businesses and with mentoring programmes; we try to smooth out collaboration between designer and manufacturers, we stimulate networking, we source sponsorship for various projects, we make contacts and information for the sourcing of materials available and we speak to international interlocutors and media to stimulate interest in what happens here. But one of the biggest hurdles is conveying the economic value of traditional South African artwork, which often reflects a special relationship with the surrounding nature and between people, the sense of community. There is no particular trend here or the application of elaborate production technology. We can supply products with great inventive potential and we would like to position South African design on the international stage.”
Several designers are present, from Nacho Carbonell to the Haas Brothers, who flew in from Los Angeles, the young David Weisman and Agents of 3D Revolution, a collective working with 3D printing. Also on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a stone’s throw from the fair, is the Zeitz MOCAA Museum, a non-profit institution showcasing contemporary African art and its diaspora, founded by Jochen Zeitz in 2013 and directed by the excellent Mark Coetzee. A temporary pavilion overlooking the Bascule Bridge (Zeitz MOCAA Pavilion) presents an exhibition on Thomas Heatherwick, who is also in the city for the occasion (closes 25 May).