Yesterday Cape Town received the fantastic news that it has been selected as one of three finalists for the World Design Capital 2014, with Bilbao and Dublin.  The city competed against 56 cities for this prestigious accolade, which was won by Seoul last year, and has been awarded to Helsinki for 2012.

A World Design Capital city is selected every two years by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, to a city that uses ‘design for social, cultural and economic development’, the Cape Town Tourism media release says.  The Council will be visiting Cape Town from 10 – 24 July, in a period in which the city will not be looking at its best in the winter weather, relative to its northern hemisphere competitors. The winning World Design Capital for 2014 will be announced on 26 October.

The Cape Town Partnership managed the bid for the award, supported by Cape Town Tourism and the City of Cape Town.   The recent decision to position Brand Cape Town as an innovation hub supported the World Design Capital bid, and uniquely differentiates Cape Town from other South African and African cities.

Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariette du Toit-Helmbold welcomed the good news: “This is a significant moment for Cape Town.  Our shortlisting is an acknowledgement that design is an asset and a massive catalyst to align different sectors across the city with the ultimate goal of making Cape Town a more liveable (sic) city.  Many people associate Cape Town with our beautiful natural surrounds but design and innovation is (sic) leading the way for us to become a city that people are increasingly choosing to explore and discover from an urban context….  As Cape Town moves into the future, we are convinced that it will become an ever more exciting place to live in, work in and visit.”

Odd was the information contained in the ‘Newsflash’ sent to Cape Town Tourism members last night, which stated that “..Cape Town’s bid theme is about the City’s use of design to overturn the negative legacies of its colonial and apartheid past that saw design dividing people, disconnecting the city, and relegating both people of colour and the urban poor to the fringes”.  This mouthful of a statement, which does not make sense in blaming design for apartheid, gets worse in the rest of the ‘Newsflash’, and one hopes that the bid book contains a more uplifting and positive motivation for Cape Town to be selected as the World Design Capital 2014!

Andrew Boraine, Chairman of the Cape Town Partnership, wrote on his blog that the Finalist status is good for Cape Town for five reasons: organisationally it demonstrated a good partnership and teamwork between the private and public sector; the deadline in getting the 465-page bid book completed and submitted was a challenge well handled; it gives brand Cape Town international visibility; it gives the citizens of Cape Town pride in their city’s success; and it will help to develop a greater design focus on anything that impacts on design in Cape Town. 

POSTSCRIPT 22/6:  The website of the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design summarises what the three finalist design capital bid cities represent.  Cape Town is praised for its beauty, and hosting of the World Cup last year, hardly the basis of giving one confidence of winning in October.  Furthermore, embarrassing is that a link is provided to the ‘Cape Town Tourism Board’, which is not Cape Town Tourism’s website, but that of Cape Town Routes Unlimited, which organisation had nothing to do with the bid!  Even worse is that it is completely dated, with a boring You Tube video dating back to the World Cup!  Come on Cape Town – the world’s design eyes are on us now!  The photograph shown for Cape Town is an aerial shot of the city, with the Cape Town Stadium prominently visible.  That for Bilbao is of a highly modern building, in all likelihood the Guggenheim Museum.  The Dublin pic is completely boring.  Dublin is reported to have spent €14 million on its bid, compared to Cape Town’s mere R2 million!  This is what the Council wrote about each of the three finalist cities:

Bilbao  

Bilbao is the capital of the province of Vizcaya, which is situated in the western part of the Basque Country, in northern Spain. As a financial and economic centre of the region, it is a dynamic and innovative city with intense social and business activity. Since the creation of The Guggenheim Museum in 1997, this city with a population of over 350,000 has been in the process of a large-scale urban transformation that has led to the development of a composed and diverse metropolis on the cusp of a dramatic urban revitalisation. So much so that Bilbao earned the 2010 Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize given for contributions to the creation of vibrant, liveable and sustainable urban communities.Spanish Tourism Board (Bilbao)  

Cape Town 

 The City of Cape Town lies at the southwestern tip of Africa, uniquely nestled between Robben Island and the majestic Table Mountain range, two national heritage sites. Since the end of apartheid, this city, now three times the size of New York and home to around 3,6 million people, has undertaken the process of redesigning itself. As South Africa’s oldest city and having recently hosted the first World Cup on African soil, Cape Town now has first class infrastructure and a cosmopolitan lifestyle. With the highest standard of living of all South African cities, this gateway to the African continent is rich in heritage, innovation, diversity and creative talent.Cape Town Tourism Board 

Dublin  

A city of one million people, Dublin is a hospitable, lively and eccentric city known to be open to ideas and creativity. With its wide connectivity and strategic geographical location, the capital of Ireland has become a busy crossing point for global flows of people and investment, as well as an international hub for large technology companies such as Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft and IBM. With its unique design heritage, the Unesco City of Literature is host for influential and distinguished design events such as the ATypI 2010 conference and the World Craft Council Europe conference in 2011.Dublin Tourism Board

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  Twitter: @WhaleCottage