Finding the mother in the mother city : reclaiming Cape Town through design

12 Dec 2013

The current macro-trend of unprecedented population growth in developing countries, specifically in the global South, calls for an increased focus on urban planning and development. To this end, many discussions in urban planning and design acknowledge the need for cities to be managed creatively in a way that empowers their inhabitants and creates better living conditions for them. In its successful bid to be the World Design Capital in 2014, Cape Town, South Africa's mother city, has embraced the idea of being a creative city, with a specific mission to improve community cohesion to rebuild the city, to reconnect communities by means of infrastructural enhancement and to reposition the city for the knowledge economy. By drawing specifically on the writings of Henri Lefebvre, this paper aligns the Cape Town World Design Capital bid and subsequent designation with the concept of the right to the city. One characteristic of Lefebvre's notion of the right to the city is not about being nostalgic for the past but rather, like the theme of Cape Town's bid, to Live Design. Transform Life, is anticipatory of a better urban situation. Following from this, the article explores the way in which design may serve as a driver to facilitate Lefebvre's notion of the right to the city in Cape Town and it also considers the implications of a design capital city within the context of an African creative economy.