"If I had to reflect for a moment on what the city I am proud to lead would look like if we had to design and build it from scratch, it would probably look very different. But even though Cape Town, like all South African cities, has a particular history, we are not the only city that might have designed itself differently."With few exceptions, the modern city has risen largely out of necessity, being added to or made more complex by the needs of the moment. This is an issue that still confronts us, especially with the pressures of urbanisation and the global shift towards cities becoming major drivers of economic growth. Living with these historical realities and daily challenges, we are left with cities that are often far from perfect. But that is the beauty of innovation. It is the beauty of design. We know that we are moving in the right direction to get to our ideal. Or at least, we are designing our city – in as much as we can – working with what we have, in order to do so. For me, this is the central thesis of the City of Cape Town’s approach to the World Design Capital 2014: Excellence in design is using what you have to realise what you want. It is designing the change we want to see in our city using the very building blocks of which our city is comprised. It is these realities that help us focus on the outcomes we want to see for 2014. Ours is, in relative global terms of population and economic power, a mid-size city at the tip of Africa. We have incredible advantages, especially in terms of our geographical location and our relative competitive advantage in terms of infrastructure. But we also face the same challenges as many developing-world cities. These challenges include urbanisation, growing population sizes, urban decay and ever present socio-economic pressures. But in as much as we feel the effects of these challenges, our city is faced with another difficulty. That is, the problem of Apartheid spatial planning. The emphasis of Apartheid was placed on separating people physically. Indeed, this was the most direct action of decades of social engineering. And as such, we have a city that still bears the strong legacy of racial separation, as do all cities in South Africa."While we are aware that the reality of divided cities is not unique to our country, there is a very particular racial dimension to these divisions that is."While many cities have felt the effects of bad planning, or class divisions, or a lack of transport options, we do live with the effects of an unjust policy of physical separation of individuals according to race. And that is what I find so exciting about design. I find the possibility of exploring truly innovative ways to change our city, and its artificial divisions, exciting. While it is true that Apartheid has been gone for two decades, we still have a lot of work to do in eradicating its legacy. We are doing everything we can to change our city every day – from major investments in public transportation and broadband infrastructure – to rolling out the most expansive public works programme in the country. However, we have to complement these large-scale interventions with the innovative solutions that design can bring to change cities. Whether it is the design of new housing structures for lower-income groups; to facilities for the urbanising population joining us in search of a better life; to amenities that creatively bring people together across old boundaries, design can truly change our city. In conclusion, we need to harness the creative potential of design and bring people together to help us find solutions by unleashing the energy of being the World Design Capital for 2014. Then we can speak with a new honesty when we say: live design, transform life. In conclusion, using these principles, and the realisation that design is based on organic networks of change that transform the city, not centralised plans, I believe we can transform Cape Town. Our structures are in place, our people are ready and our city is waiting."Cape Town is ready to be the World Design Capital in 2014."
Image: Cape Town Mayor Patricia de Lille accepts the World Design Capital 2014 plaque from Icsid President Soon-in Lee in Helsinki.