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Friday Dec 20, 2013

Cape Town learns from Helsinki

As Cape Town prepares to be the fourth World Design Capital (WDC) next year, the message from the previous host city of Helsinki is that design is a 'tool' that should be used to take the city forward.

'Design can, must and will take on a central role in the development of our society,' said Pekka Timonen, chair of the International Design Foundation that co-ordinated Helsinki's World Design Capital programme in 2012. It should also be part of an ongoing project to encourage cities to do things better.

Cape Town's theme for 2014 - Live design. Transform Life - looks at ways of using design to overcome social inequality and move away from the city's apartheid legacy.

There are 450 official WDC projects confirmed for next year. Some are events, such as the Cape Town Carnival in March and the Muizenberg Festival in October. There are also other initiatives, such as the Too Good To Waste co-operative of 14 upcycle designers who will turn junk into usable items and the provision of free wi-fi to Mitchells Plain, Khayelitsha and the Sea Point Pavilion.

One of the projects with a global reach is the themed postage stamps which are designed to serve as 'miniature ambassadors' for the city.

WDC created the awareness of the broader definition of design, but the public sector needed to take things further by showing how design could make life better, said Timonen.

One of Helsinki's WDC projects, Forum Virium, worked with the public sector to create services that met the needs of its users. Detailed bus information, for example, was made available to commuters so they could plan their routes. Residents could also access information about council meetings via their cellphones or computers, within minutes of the decisions being made.

'If people understand how the city is working, they are more likely to participate,' said Pekka Koponen, development director of Forum Virium.

Helsinki had 550 official WDC projects, that involved about 14 000 'activists' and about 2.5 million people who took part in the various related activities.

But the work has continued beyond the 12-month period, and Laura Aalto, communications director for the International Design Foundation, explained that Helsinki had now embarked on a two-year project, called 'Design Driven City', to promote the use of design in its other cities. Local authorities will work with designers to find 'new and radical' ways to deal with their city's challenges.

Various WDC projects in Cape Town will have long-term effects, such as the MyCiTi bus service and the upgrading and modernisation of five Metrorail train stations.

Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille has said that Cape Town will become Africa's design and creative hub because of the work done during the World Design Capital year.

In addition to the official programme, design-related initiatives in each of the city's 111 wards will provide lasting solutions for various communities.

Cape Argus


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