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What is the World Design Capital?

iTuesday, Mar 11th, 2014 comments by Tayana

I remember driving down Adderley Street, about the time the festive season lights went up, and seeing a light that said ‘World Design Capital’. I thought it was a theme for New Year. And then as we progressed into 2014, that particular light never came down; I started seeing ‘World Design Capital’ crop up everywhere and the only thought in my mind was, “What does this have to do with us?” 

The World Design Capital is “a city promotion project that celebrates the merits of design”.

More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas, and cities are facing challenges adapting to provide for the increasing population and businesses in a way that promotes economic growth. It is safe to say that the future success of a city depends on how effectively it is planned and designed, so as to achieve maximum benefits from its shared spaces and functions.

The World Design Capital project is held biennially and its vision is to promote and encourage the use of design to further the social, economic and cultural development of the world’s cities. Their aims are (among many others):

  • To showcase a designated city and its achievements on the international forum
  • To create an international network where cities and municipalities can learn and share innovative design programmes and strategies
  • To share municipal design-led project between developed countries and emerging economies 

Cape Town has been selected as the World Design Capital for 2014. Cape Town Design NPC, in collaboration with Charles Maisel and Thundafund, aims to host eight pitching sessions, where officially recognised WDC projects will be exposed to potential funders, mentors and collaborators. Cape Town Design NPC will award R10 000 to the winner of each session.

The first session was held on 11 February at the German Club, and the winning pitch was project #WDC421, 100Bicycles. The second session was held on Tuesday, 25 February, at the Pavillion Conference Centre in the Clock Tower. Ten projects were pitched but there was a little twist – the teams had to come up with creative ways to pitch their ideas to the audience and judges without using a Powerpoint presentation.

It was brilliant to see the amazing things our fellow Capetonians are doing do improve the city; whether it is the City of Eden Food Forest Network embarking on an expedition to transform Cape Town into an edible city, or SHIFT using their solar powered sustainability Caravan to show-case all the sustainability projects around the country.

In the end, there could be only one prize winner on the evening and R10 000 was awarded to a project called Thermotrap – a range of products designed to improve insulation in shacks as well as make it fire-proof. 

For more information on any of the official WDC projects, visit

By Mariam Osman

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