Dezeen and MINI World Tour: with Cape Town serving as World Design Capital in 2014, we spoke to programme director Richard Perez about how the title can help the city overcome  problems inherited from the Apartheid regime.

During the course of the movie we drive from Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in the affluent waterside area of Green Point, before heading out on the motorway to the impoverished townships between the city centre and the airport.

"Segregation was a design <br />exercise during Apartheid"

The sharp divide between rich and poor in Cape Town is one of the issues that Perez hopes the World Design Capital initiative can help to overcome. "The reason Cape Town won [World Design Capital designation for 2014] was not to showcase how good we are at design," he explains. "Our bid was more about how we can use design to transform the challenges we have as a city."

"Segregation was a design exercise during Apartheid"

The interview was filmed at Design Indaba, where World Design Capital 2014 launched its call for submissions from designers.

Many of the problems in Cape Town today are linked to South Africa's troubled past, Perez says. "Segregation was a design exercise back in the Apartheid years," he explains. "Everything you see in Cape Town - the segregation and the informal settlements that exist outside the metropole - exist by design. We're now going through a process of seeing how we can redesign that, or undesign it."

There are also new challenges to be overcome. As the South African economy continues to grow, the townships surrounding the city grow too, as people move from the country to the city for work. "What you have now is massive population in those areas, trying to commute into the area where the work is," Perez explains. "The city is trying to play catch-up all the time to provide facilities for these immigrants."

"Segregation was a design exercise during Apartheid"

Perez wants to take design "out of the city centre and into the townships, so everybody can start to understand the value of design so we can create more economic growth within the informal settlements and the informal market."

However, he understands that the scale of the challenges Cape Town faces means they won't be easily overcome. "We won't solve the problems in 2014. But it is an opportunity for us to look at more creative ways of dealing with those problems."

"Segregation was a design exercise during Apartheid"

This movie features a MINI Cooper S Countryman.

The music featured is by South African artist Floyd Lavine, who performed as part of the Design Indaba Music Circuit. You can listen to Lavine's music on Dezeen Music Project.

"Segregation was a design exercise during Apartheid"

Aerial image of Cape Town is courtesy of Shutterstock. See all our Dezeen and Mini World Tour reports from Cape Town.

  • h.a.

    Good article and great documentary. One like this about Israel would be very helpful too. The situation seems to be very similar: design and architecture used to fulfil political agendas.

  • Moez

    Fascinating – love the title quote.

    I’d also be very interested to see Dezeen explore the architecture and design of apartheid as it exists in Israel-Palestine today – it’s a fascinating [and devastating] example of how to expand and colonise through ethnic-native separation.

    One of the most interesting explorations of this process from a design/architectural POV can be found in <a href="http://www.AtlasOfTheConflict.com” target=”_blank”>www.AtlasOfTheConflict.com by Israeli architect, Malkit Shoshan.

    Also worthy of note are the carto-infographics by Visualizing Palestine which illustrate the ethnic separation of displacement and racism via roads and transport exclusively for one race over another <a href="http:// [http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement]” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement%5D” target=”_blank”>[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement] the annexation of land and native populations from it using 20ft concrete walls and fences akin to 1960s Berlin, on steroids <a href="http:// [http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/across-the-wall]” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/across-the-wall%5D” target=”_blank”>[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infographic/across-the-wall] and the systematic demolition of homes to encourage exile and displacement <a href="http:// [http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement]” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement%5D” target=”_blank”>[http://visualizingpalestine.org/infograhic/a-policy-of-displacement].

    One last source that provides interesting architectural information is the Hebron Rehabilitation Committee [HRC] who won the Agha Khan award from the King of Spain for their efforts in the research and preservation of native architectural materials, aesthetics and engineering in order to replicate these attributes for restoration of existing structures and to help expand the ancient Old City and maintain the world heritage potential of the town: http://www.hebronrc.org/index.php?option=com_cont

    Hope this proves a useful foundation upon which to pursue interviews with any of the individuals-organisations above, or further exploration of the issues they address in relation to the use and abuse of architectural practices.

    *I hope this comment isn’t construed in any unfortunate manner, and is taken as an informative addition to the fascinating discussion of the history of ethics in architecture, especially in contemporary times. Great site! : )

  • Pluk

    Looking at countries such as Israel and South Africa, I honestly believe that communism was far better. In fact, if I think about it, if I am looking to China, I would say communism is better than the American capitalism even.

    • Jammy06

      Not sure if people in Tibet would agree.

  • arch-sa

    The two are not comparable. As a South African who knows several Israelis that live in South Africa, I can attest to this. The racial divide in South Africa was based purely on a separation of whites from non-whites for no other reason than a supremacist view of whites being better than non-whites. It was fundamentally a racist society.

    The situation is Israel is nothing like this. The divide is Israel is not across race, but rather across areas of disputed land. Israelis are white, black, Muslim, Jewish, Christian etc. There are no “white Israelis only” benches or rest rooms in Israel. It is completely different.

    Nevertheless, whether architecture/design can bridge gaps remains to be seen.

    Just my 2c.


    Hey, I have an integrated urban project and my conceptual process turns around the idea of segregation and aggregation. Can anyone help me find analysis made by architects on that issue? Architects not urban designers. Thanks!