For its burgeoning creative output, diverse voices and inspiring natural beauty, the mother city – recently named a UNESCO city of design – has established itself as one of the world’s top design destinations.
The Design Minds of Cape Town
For its burgeoning creative output, diverse voices and inspiring natural beauty, the mother city – recently named a UNESCO city of design – has established itself as one of the world’s top design destinations.
Conjuring postcard-perfect images of picturesque beachfronts, majestic Table Mountain and rolling vineyards, Cape Town is famed as the veritable beauty queen of South Africa, flaunting natural assets such as the pristine peninsula that’s primed for a sun-soaked holiday. But in recent years the southernmost region of the country has unveiled an altogether different side as somewhere between the winding valleys, sandy coastlines and rugged trails, a creative energy has been reinvigorating its streets, proving that the Mother City is about substance as much as it’s about style.
To locals, the creative industry has been gaining strength for some time, a slow and steady growth that culminated in it being named World Design Capital 2014, sparking a year of dedicated programmes and spaces that showed off its untapped talent. Fast forward four years and the city has been named a UNESCO City of Design, joining 31 destinations across the globe in a creative network of locales dedicated to investment and growth in these all-important industries with a mandate to drive social and urban change. Now on the map, Cape Town can hold its own among the world’s design greats – London, Basel, Hong Kong. Next to these icons of industry the Mother City doesn’t just hold a flame, it sets the landscape alight with a multicultural, multifaceted approach to creativity, and the time to discover it has arrived.
ZEITZ MOCAA: A GLOBAL DESIGN ICON
Combining cutting-edge architecture and the richly diverse culture of Africa and its diaspora, this museum is a celebration of modern expression. When Thomas Heatherwick first walked into what is now the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa 12 years ago, the imposing tower of grain containers was already over eight decades old, vacant only for the pigeon droppings that covered every surface of the 33-metre-high build. The British architect had been tasked with turning the 42 concrete tubes into something uniquely modern that would celebrate the culture of the city, in an up-and-coming area of the V&A Waterfront. The resultant space is a magnificent example of modern architecture. Outside, the façade retains a strong physical presence but feels refreshed by the geometric puffs of distended glass for windows. Inside, Heatherwick’s team looked to a grain of corn as inspiration for the atrium. It’s here, at the heart of the structure, that you really get a sense of the scale of Heatherwick’s design, which sought to deconstruct the old bones of the grain storage and lend the building a cathedral-like quality through soft gentle curves, light and space.
On display you’ll find art from entrepreneur Jochen Zeitz’s personal collection, on a 20-year loan to the museum bearing his name, as well as moving exhibitions put together by the team under chief curator Mark Coetzee. Like London’s Tate Modern or San Francisco’s MOMA, the Zeitz MOCAA is a celebration of contemporary art, and it’s also a dedicated showcase to the creativity of the African continent and its diaspora, with work by acclaimed artists such as William Kentridge, Kudzani Chiuri and Nandipha Mntambo covering the nine floors and walls of gallery space.
DESIGN TRIBUTES: MANDELA’S CENTENARY
On his 100th birth year, Mandela’s legacy remains ingrained in the fabric of Cape Town and creative minds are celebrating his life through design. From stained glass dedications of religious icons to grand-scale oil paintings of royalty and statues of war heroes, since the beginning of time, artists and designers have been paying tribute to the world’s icons through their work. These monuments are meant to honour, sometimes comment, commemorate and remind, subtle and striking tributes to history, and there are few historical figures as recognised as Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born 100 years ago on 19 July, South Africa’s anti-apartheid revolutionary, president and leader. Throughout the city of Cape Town you will find places of dedication to his struggle and politics.
‘Madiba has had an immense impact in my life,’ shares Ravi Naidoo, founder of Design Indaba, one of three key contributors to the recently erected Arch for Arch, a design dedication to the work of Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and South Africa’s constitution. ‘We started our business at the dawn of the democracy and wanted to find platforms to articulate and manifest the vision of Madiba and the vision of Archbishop Tutu.’ Along with Norway-based studio Snohetta, Ravi and South African architectural firm Local Studio conceptualised the Arch for Arch, a 14-beamed physical manifestation of the 14 chapters of the constitution. The structure demonstrates that South Africa is championing design as key way of commemorating and remembering key moments in history, and challenging traditional statue monuments with innovative creations that respect their environment and the people that interact with it. ‘The reason I love spending time with designers is they lean optimistically forward into a future,’ notes Ravi. ‘They are the most progressive people on the planet. Everything they look at they want to make better. It’s that attitude we need more of. We need a creative army in helping us reimagine South Africa.’
Visit these landmarks of Madiba’s legacy in the city of Cape Town on the centenary of his birth.
⊕ Arch for Arch at St George’s Cathedral Designed by Norway-based studio Snohetta in conjunction with artists from Local Studio in Joburg and Design Indaba, this structure of 14 interlinking beams represents the history of South Africa and its core values. The design sits unimposingly at the entrance to the leafy Company’s Garden, immersed in its natural surrounds.
⊕ Cape Town City Hall It’s the place where, just hours after being released from prison, Nelson Mandela gave his first public speech as a free man. The grand Edwardian building breathes history, and it remains an important space for the people to gather. Situated on the Grand Parade, this historical Edwardian building was made for large gatherings and it’s here that the city came together after former president’s death for an emotional vigil, celebrating his life through song, speech and dance.
⊕ Nobel Square Designed and brought to life by local sculptor Claudette Schreuders, the four sculptures that sit against the V&A Waterfront’s distinctive harbour and mountainside backdrop possess the distinctive characteristics – stocky statures and outsize features – associated with the artist. The works represent each of the country’s Nobel Peace Laureates, with Archbishop Tutu and Mandela alongside Nkosi Albert Luthuli and F.W. de Klerk.
⊕ Conrad Botes Perhaps best known for his work with fellow artist Anton Kannemeyer at Bitterkomix, Conrad Botes creates art that wryly cuts into the heart of the political minefield in South Africa. ‘As a visual artist, I have always been interested in looking at furniture and design in a different way, and how to merge the borders that restrict the different practices I am involved in.’ Recently, the artist made his first foray into the merged worlds of art and design, collaborating with rugmaker Paco Pakdoust and The Guild Group, a collection of companies dedicated to showcasing the collectable designs of Southern Africa. ‘When The Guild Group first invited me to produce work for one of their shows, I realised it was a fantastic opportunity to create something special,’ he said. Botes, who works out of his studio in Observatory enjoys the district’s edgy energy. ‘I have had my previous studios in Woodstock and Salt River for the last decade and a half. I love the grittiness of those neighbourhoods and the way artists infiltrate and occupy them before they become fashionable. I like walking these streets and I’m inspired by the people, architecture and graffiti that I come across.’ conradbotes.com
⊕ Justine Mahoney Walking into any exhibition by Justine Mahoney, is a little like walking into a fun house Ð if that fun house was straight out of a horror film set. The artist’s quintessential character sculptures in wood, enamel and bronze have a captivating cartoon quality Ð each with a distinctly dark and sinister undertone. For Mahoney, they’re reflections of growing up in a country where tensions bubbled beneath a thinly veiled harmonious facade. Next up, she’ll be tackling another universally seminal period in her upcoming works, ‘but always superimposed onto a South African backdrop,’ she adds, summing up her oeuvre. ‘My new work deals with transformation, budding sexuality, initiation into adulthood. That precarious moment between childhood and adulthood, once reached never to return. In a sense it is also about mourning the loss of childhood.’ While the home and studio Mahoney shares with husband Sean (of architecture firm StudioMAS) is located in Cape Town’s suburbs, she’s inspired by the industrial feel of areas such as Retreat and Woodstock. ‘I have a love for urban decay and regrowth,’ she explains. As a part of Guild’s network of inspiring creatives, she feels a creative unity in the city: ‘The people belonging to the art and design community feed off each other, I find the people to be extremely giving and supportive of each other and feel incredibly honoured to be a part of it during this exciting time of cross-pollination.’ justinemahoney.com
⊕ Andile Dyalvane & Zizipho Poswa ‘Clay is meditation, expression, celebration and education,’ says Andile Dyalvane, one half of Imiso Ceramics and one of South Africa’s most talented and talked-about artisans. Together with equally accomplished business partner Zizipho Poswa, Dyalvane creates a range of resolutely African upmarket ceramics in their studio and gallery situated in Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill, a repurposed factory that’s now home to a popular art, design, craft and food market. Inside Imiso – meaning tomorrow in Xhosa – you’ll discover a trove of hand-carved clay pieces, products amassed in their 12 years working in this space, including Poswa’s popular Handpinched collection and Dyalvane’s Africasso range of vessels inspired by Picasso. ‘Woodstock inspires me,’ he says. ‘I have collections and objects named and influenced by this area.’ Both Poswa and Dyalvane draw inspiration from their heritage for their uniquely crafted objects: Poswa’s Umthwalo series leans on the strength of Xhosa women, while Dyalvane’s output, recently on display at New York gallery Friedman Benda, has been renowned for its treatment of heritage in the context of a Westernised world. ‘It’s very important to me to take pride in my heritage and culture this teaches the younger generation to love who they are and also learn of what they lost due to Western influences.’ Dyalvane attributes South Africa’s vibrant cultural tapestry as a key element in creativity. ‘The diversity the country has resulted in richer, more unique conversational pieces than the world has ever seen,’ Dyalvane explains. imisoceramics.co.za
⊕ Hoi P’loy When husband-and-wife duo Ploy Phiromnam and Guy van der Walt are in search of inspiration, they step into the creative studios belonging to local designers, artists and artisans right on the doorstep of Hoi P’loy, the couple’s lighting studio in the hub of Woodstock. ‘Visiting them, you’re instantly transported into a small world where each creative crafts an environment that caters to their own taste,’ they explain. ‘Seeing these projects come to life really gets one’s own juices flowing and reminds us of what’s possible when people apply themselves and invest in their ideas.’ Having both come from creative backgrounds, Phiromnam and Van der Walt are aesthetes at heart and are excited about the role that lighting plays in determining mood. ‘Artificial light has the ability to orchestrate our emotional state. A well-crafted balance of various warm hues, presented in visually stimulating presentation can elevate one’s sense of self,’ they note. While the pair live in the suitably green suburb of Gardens, they love spending their nine-to-five in the industrial-creative ’hood of Woodstock. ‘It’s exciting to be based in an area that’s experiencing such phenomenal growth from a wealth of different types of people. It feels like one of the more culturally diverse areas which is perhaps a little more reflective of our country’s goals and ideals.’ hoiploy.com
⊕ Atang Tshikare For multidisciplinary artist Atang Tshikare, whose transcendent work has been known to blend form with function, the boundaries between art and design have always been blurred. ‘I have a holistic view of the work that I do – you can’t separate art and design in what I do,’ he explains. ‘Design is seen as creating a product, but I see design as an art that has a product side to it.’ Just take a look at his collaboration with high-end interior brand OKHA, resulting in a truly one-of-a-kind coffee table, called Metsing, which demonstrates the beauty in natural, organic forms. It’s the outdoors that truly sparks Tshikare’s creative energy. ‘Nature really has me inspired. Places like Newlands Forest, [beach-side suburb] Muizenberg, or Langa [one of South Africa’s oldest townships]… Anywhere that you find humans interacting with nature.’ When he’s not out exploring the outdoors, Tshikare can be found at his Woodstock studio, where he uses elements of heritage and African mythology to create his showstopping pieces. ‘Woodstock is the biggest creative hub in Cape Town. Artists and designers are on almost every block,’ he says. Tshikare compares Cape Town’s current artistic scene to that of Miami just 10 years ago. ‘I see it getting there,’ he says. ‘Cape Town is becoming the new icon of creativity.’ zabalazaa.com
⊕ Trevyn and Julian McGowan As founders of the Guild Group, a creative superbrand of no less than 10 sub-companies and projects that aim to increase South Africa’s design exposure globally, Trevyn and Julian McGowan have played a major role in fostering the country’s incredible talent. ‘Everything we do is focused on propelling and nurturing our design heroes and future stars,’ says Trevyn, ‘so we have the fulfilling experience of working at the forefront of a movement that is changing the landscape of design, not only in South Africa but in the global industry.’ The pair recently relocated their Guild gallery from Woodstock to the upcoming Silo District. ‘With the far larger space we have been able to mount multiple exhibitions simultaneously, launch a studio line of in-house designed furniture, and a concept store with smaller “take-away” products by our Southern Guild designers and fresh talents,’ Trevyn explains. Later this year, visitors to the district will be treated to a new group show, titled Colourfield, inspired by the art movement from the mid-1900s, House of Bronze, opening in September, retrospective of Bronze Age’s work over two decades and a solo show by Dokter and Misses, ‘the Joburg based design duo who have blazed a global trajectory in limited edition design’, says Trevyn. theguildgroup.co.za
Trevyn and Julian’s ideal day in the city Before starting the day in the city, we’ll enjoy breakfast in our garden with incredible fresh produce from the sublime Olive Branch Deli in the Lifestyle Centre. One coffee spot that can’t be beat is Run Rabbit Run Coffee Roastery at Conrad Hicks’ The Bijou Blacksmith. We love to visit the Zeitz MOCAA for the most incredible architectural reinvention of an important building by Thomas Heatherwick, with work by some of our favourite artists like Nandipha Mntambo, Athi-Patra Ruga and Mohau Modisakeng.Lunchtime calls for sneaking away from work to meet friends at the Yard – a grand foodie emporium by the legendary Abigail Bisogno with fusion Indian and luxurious leather banquette seating; In the evening, when we aren’t at home, you will find us having a sublime cocktail at the Outrage of Modesty; Dinners are always special when we are at the Shortmarket Club – as the atmosphere and service feels like being back at The Ivy in London, but the food is super fresh, inventive and even better; after dinner we might visit the Cape Town Comedy Club or Jazz in the Crypt in Saint George’s Cathedral – both world class venues.
Make sure you discover the design and art of South Africa in its chic boutique galleries
⊕ Guild Specialising in collectable design, Guild is the space where what you admire isn’t necessarily hung on the walls. Spread across the 450-square-metre space, furniture, rugs, cabinets and lights are given their time in the spotlight, elegantly blurring the lines between design and art. Gracefully forged mild steel tables by Gregor Jenkin, harmonious lighting by David Krynauw, the graphically cool drinks cabinets by husband-and-wife duo Dokter and Misses are some of the haute, locally made design pieces you might find inside, just steps away from the Zeitz MOCAA. Shop 5B, Silo 5, V&A Waterfront southernguild.co.za
⊕ Smith Studio Wedged between a craft shop and The Cape Gallery, Smith Studio is housed within a 250-year-old heritage building that was reinvigorated by local architectural studio Urbain McGee. The gallery is lofty and light and filled with the works of emerging contemporary names such as painter Banele Khoza, David Brits, who works in multi-mediums, and creative studio Hoick. 6 Church St, Cape Town smithstudio.co.za
EATING BY DESIGN
Steal away for a meal at one of these expectation-exceeding restaurants, frequented by the city’s most creative.
⊕ Breakfast at Hemelhuijs
A fixture on the Cape Town breakfast scene, Hemelhuijs’s particularly beautiful combination of high-end homeware, delectable fresh fare, seasonally changing decor and artful plating keeps patrons coming back for more. Chef-proprietor Jacques Erasmus sources local produce to create his seasonal menu of country-inspired cuisine. Everything in the space is considered, and patrons can peruse a range of locally designed homeware on display for purchase. 71 Waterkant St, Cape Town hemelhuijs.co.za
⊕ Brunch at Mulberry & Prince
Decked out in a dusty pink and charcoal palette with accents of marble and copper, this inner-city eatery is primed for Instagram, but what else would you expect from a pair of savvy chefs, trained the Culinary Institute in New York? Co-owners and chefs Cornel Mostert and Cynthia Rivera sought the help of interior designer Adri van Zyl for the utterly chic interior and you can take in the cool faceted artworks by Kurt Pio while enjoying a delicious all-American brunch selection. 12 Pepper St, Cape Town mulberryandprince.co.za
⊕ Lunch at Chefs
This little eatery in the leafy suburb of Gardens, tucked away just down the road from lauded international architectural firm SAOTA and furniture brand OKHA’ is the kind of place that’s always buzzing with cool industry people, who come here for the elevated canteen-style cuisine Ð think buttermilk and za’tar wood-roast lamb leg or Asian BBQ beef ribs Ð all served by the chefs themselves. The setting is simple, unfussy and fresh – a blank canvas for the colourful and artfully plated food coming out of the kitchen. 81 St Johns St, Gardens chefscapetown.co.za
⊕ Dinner at Shortmarket Club Everybody wants to score a table at The Test Kitchen, chef Luke Dale Roberts’ lauded restaurant in the beating heart of Woodstock, but the Shortmarket Club is an equally special place to grab dinner, thanks to the excellent cooking by Dale-Roberts protegée chef Wesley Randals and the moodily hip interior, outfitted by Sandalene Dale Roberts. Look out for the striking paper butterfly frame wall created by artist Mark Rautenbach. 88 Shortmarket St, Cape Town theshortmarketclub.co.za
⊕ For cool and contemporary
Pod Hotel, Camps Bay Just a stroll away from the hub of Camps Bay, the Pod Hotel is a modern bolthole full of contemporary creature comforts. Just 17 rooms are geared to coastal living with abounding views of either mountain or sea. Rooms are stylishly decorated with blonde wood walls, natural, earthy touches, and classic pared-back linen. pod.co.za
⊕ For artful city living
Bree Street Loft, Cape Town City Centre If you’re going to opt for a homestay in the city, you’ll want to make sure it’s this one. Draped in layers of grey and black, it’s moody and cool on the inside, and perfectly juxtaposed against Cape Town’s sunny exterior. Camera-ready views of Table Mountain will leave you open-jawed, and the sophisticated interior styling – all done by local design studio Weylandts – is impeccable. airbnb.com/rooms/21435760
⊕ For leafy city bowl style
Garden Cottage at InAweStays, Gardens The historical facade of the 1800s InAweStays homestead Ð comprising a manor house, this two-bedroom garden cottage and a chic loft Ð belies its contemporary interior. The garden cottage is the perfect spot to discover Cape Town’s trendy Kloof Street. inawestays.co.za/garden-cottage/
⊕ Jewellery: Kirsten Goss
Shop 5A4, Silo 5, South Arm Road, Silo Square, V&A Waterfront
Find high-end, meticulously crafted accessories at this luxury jewellery designer’s store in Cape Town. Designed by HK Studio, this boutique in the V&A Waterfront’s Silo district is a futuristic blank canvas for the beautiful pieces found within. kirstengoss.com
⊕ Lifestyle: Guild Shop
Shop 5B, Silo 5, V&A Waterfront
When Trevyn and Julian McGowan aren’t representing the best of local design in shows across the world and at home, they’re making design pieces of their own, collaborating with and sourcing from artists and designers for fashion, homeware and lifestyle products that fill up their very own concept store, located next to their gallery in the Silo District. southernguild.co.za
⊕ Fashion: Maison Mara
5 Jarvis St, De Waterkant
Fashion meets high design at this curated shopping space in De Waterkant. Owner Kelly Withey is a style sleuth, sourcing items from brands such as Petit Bateau, Acne and Kenzo. Make sure you pop into the marble-clad bathroom, which showcases a range of sought-after skincare products from Malin + Goetz. maisonmara.co.za
Words by Jessica Ross & photographs by Greg Cox. ◼
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© This article was first published in Oct-Nov 2019 edition of World Travel Magazine.
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