Cape Town's Win Is an Opportunity to Design Our Own Lives

Cape Times (South Africa), October 31, 2011 | Go to article overview

Cape Town's Win Is an Opportunity to Design Our Own Lives


And now the work begins. The World Design Capital title is the start of a process of getting ordinary Capetonians to embrace their role as the designers of their lives. This is not an event, it is a movement - a shift in thinking about how we create all the pieces that make up the city.

That means, perhaps more than anything else, that we are all partners in the Cape Town project to create a better city.

Designer Mugendi M'Rithaa of CPUT in Cape Town is a member of Cape Town's World Design Capital bid committee.

In an interview on the Designtalk blog, he says that when consumers are treated as co-creators in a participatory design process, they appreciate the product and feel associated with it - they also begin to trust the designers of the things they use, and designers learn to trust the end user to make meaningful contributions. Just because systems are complex doesn't mean it's difficult to understand what design needs to achieve.

In designing the city, this requires not only changing mindsets, but creating space for people to actively define how they want to live their lives.

That space is defined by all the things that govern our actions; not just the physical, but also the rules and regulations.

Stellenbosch Mayor Conrad Sidego, who attended the IDA Conference in Taipei when Cape Town was announced as winner, said: "The physical environment is important, but design must now become part of our leaders' vocabulary. Those in the design industry must use this opportunity to plough back into the community and people that they design for - in that way you also unleash in them their design potential. People should be encouraged to be co-designers of their existence now and in their future - not merely observers. It comes back to empowerment. Government can facilitate but it cannot create - it must give space to entrepreneurs and create an environment in which business designers, job designers, can operate.

"We must revisit the bylaws that cramp the style of these entrepreneurs. Our laws have to be redesigned so as not to inhibit designers. And if they aren't, there will be robust debate about the relevance of those legal barriers. …

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