Cape Town’s bid story

The City of Cape Town's successful bid for World Design Capital 2014 was coordinated by the Cape Town Partnership, in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders and supporters.

Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2012: Cape Town finalists announced

African Centre for Cities Director Edgar Pieterse is the jury chair for the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award 2012 in Cape Town. Here’s his statement at the announcement of the award shortlist.

Why was Cape Town chosen for this award?

“Cape Town is home to almost four million inhabitants. One quarter of those live incredibly comfortable and enviable lives in one of the most alluring cities in the world. Another quarter face routine struggles amid living conditions that are as difficult and dispiriting as one gets: limited sanitation, precarious shelter, intermittent access to basic services, grave threats to personal safety, and the constant indignity of grinding poverty associated with unemployment. The other 50% of the population fall in between these extremes but certainly much closer to the bottom quarter, with lives marked by insecurity, uncertainty about work, inconvenience and the abiding fear that the ground could fall away at any time. Cape Town is thus a highly differentiated and malleable city, filled with almost endless promise but also continuously undermined by a variety of constraints and pressures.

“The Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award recognises and celebrates creative solutions to the problems and opportunities of city dwellers. The Cape Town Award was launched on 23 November 2011 and gave Cape Town organisations until 24 February 2012 to submit their entries to be considered for the 2012 prize of R750 000.”

How has Cape Town responded to the call for Urban Age entries?

“The response was overwhelming: 254 entries were received, which is the highest response rate since the award was launched. The jury believes this response reflects the rich reservoir of organisations, talent, energy and grassroots leadership across all segments of Cape Town’s neighbourhoods. This diversity of activism bodes well for the future of the city, especially if it can be incorporated into the unfolding City Development Strategy process of the City government. The city will also tackle its forthcoming year-long status as World Design Capital 2014, a biennial international title granted by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design, amongst other opportunities. Moreover, this response made the adjudication process of the jury incredibly difficult but profoundly rewarding as well. All jury members felt deeply humbled and inspired by the range of quality initiatives sprouting all over the city.”

Who’s been shortlisted?

“The jury convened from 20-22 March to adjudicate the submissions and tour the city to meet a clutch of outstanding projects. The jury unanimously identified eight projects to shortlist, including the overall winner of the 2012 Award. The winner will be announced at the award ceremony on 19 April 2012. The eight outstanding projects are, in alphabetical order:

Why were these projects chosen?

“The jury was struck by the ingenuity of the Regeneration of City and Soul initiative to work with young men prone to the gangster’s lifestyle to find alternative, hands-on outlets that can reintegrate them back into their communities in ways that also improve the physical environment and create incomes. This work is echoed in the well-rounded and ever deepening methodologies of both Thrive and the Rocklands Urban Abundance Centre to use residents’ connection with nature to operationalise various regenerative urban services (recycling, food gardens, community trading systems, markets, and so on). The multi-dimensional work of the Bicycle Empowerment Network, which seeks to provide citizens greater means of mobility and access, deserves recognition and promotion. The jury believes that all these projects and numerous others related to greening and food security hold a key to address some of Cape Town’s most profound challenges, if more systematic ways can be found to connect grassroots innovations with citywide policies in order to scale-up.

“Durable urban change is often about carefully targeted micro interventions that can change the energies and dynamics of a surrounding neighbourhood. When one engages with the physical manifestations that the tenacity, blood, sweat, and tears of the protagonists of Mothers Unite and Masiphumelele Library have created, the power of ‘urban acupuncture’ is apparent. These projects serve as reminders that through vision, commitment over the long haul, and principle-based partnerships, just about any problem can be confronted and addressed.

“At a different scale, the jury was impressed with the efforts of the Social Justice Coalition to bring one of the toughest urban problems to the attention of both residents and public bodies. In its methodology, the organisation seems to strike a powerful balance between protest and proposition; i.e. being open to partner with government to operationalise the janitorial service that will ensure oversight and maintenance of communal toilets, while reserving the right to protest perceived injustices and poor service delivery.

“The jury wants to underscore that more attention must be paid to the transformative power of using the built form to alter social dynamics. VPUU convincingly proves that careful attention to the quality of public spaces and mobility corridors, especially in the harshest environments, can dramatically change the experience and horizons of a neighbourhood. We hope that the important lessons emerging from this vibrant experiment in place-making will be recognised and amplified across the city. We are encouraged by a recent decision of the City of Cape Town to roll out the approach across various other neighbourhoods in the city.”

Anything you feel Cape Town missed?

“The Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award foregrounds grassroots initiatives that connect social and economic well-being with improving the physical environment. In other words, the jury believes that improvement in the quality and experience of place is the gateway to urban opportunities and improved liveability in a city. In this regard, the jury was struck by the sheer absence of mature or advanced submissions that dealt directly with the unacceptable living conditions of the one million Cape Town citizens who live in highly inadequate shelter: backyards, freestanding informal dwellings and overcrowded public housing. This paucity of innovation to deal with structural urban exclusion is clearly compounded by the large-scale under-utilisation of (public) land – a visceral aftermath of apartheid spatial planning and social engineering, which has a debilitating impact on economic efficiency, inclusion and identity.”

Once the winner is announced and the prize handed over, is that it for Cape Town?

“In light of the impressive range of submissions, the jury is exploring a variety of ways to leave a more durable legacy than the awarding of a single prize alone. This initiative will establish a variety of mechanisms to facilitate the sharing of information and accessing of resources across all 254 projects. Most importantly, creative ways will be found to ensure that the World Design Capital 2014 movement incorporates the creativity and innovation that the Deutsche Bank Urban Age Award has uncovered.”

View the Deutsche Bank Urban Age 2012 trailer: Cape Town
Image: The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrade project in Khayelitsha