Department of Design launches in Cape Town

WORDS Malibongwe Tyilo

Department of Design is an exciting three-week long programme initiated by the government of the Netherlands as part of their contribution to World Design Capital 2014. 

Running from the 8th until the 26th of July at Cape Town’s Provenance Auction House, the programme represents a R4.5 million investment, and promises to bring over 60 Dutch companies together with their South African counterparts through workshops, debates, and other activities that address our country’s sustainability challenges.

This will see the auction house transformed into a pavilion by award-winning Dutch design firm, Droog, for the duration of the event. “Their work is thought provoking, and it breaks the mould of traditional design, which is a natural fit for us,” says Laura Owings, Department of Design’s communications manager. “We want it to be a space that inspires creative thinking, something that people can experience even without attending the events.”

The event itself is free, and visitors are invited to attend activities free of charge. There will also be a pop-up café, Wi-Fi and a play-space with educational toys designed by the various partners involved.

Droog’s core concept for the pavilion design is to use things that are already available in the city whilst constantly engaging with local artisans, combining their knowledge with Dutch creativity in order to contribute to the final design. 

“Research shows that in the townships of Cape Town everything is re-used and finds new meaning. Nothing disappears from the flow,” Laura explains. “The Department of Design will be created with local materials gathered in various parts of Cape Town and built by local parties.”

One of the local organisations involved is Carpenter’s Shop, a Cape Town initiative that gives practical training and work-place skills in carpentry. Their carpentry team will be creating DoD’s tables and stools based on designs from Droog. After the event DoD will help facilitate the sale of these items, with all proceeds going back to Carpenter’s Shop.

Charl Edwards from Yenza, a non-profit organisation that sources local items that showcase the ingenuity, creativity and everyday design of resourceful people in resource-scarce areas, has been part of the information exchange with the team from Droog.

“So far I’ve been impressed with the way they have managed to incorporate a lot of the visual imagery that we have shared with them into the design. It was also interesting to see the speed at which the project came together,” says Charl.

As South Africa’s third largest European Union trading partner, the Netherlands is constantly seeking ways to build a sustainable relationship with South Africa. To this end, the Dutch Consul General is inviting all South Africans to get involved in the programme through their #COCREATESA campaign. They are inviting South Africans to take a selfie, use the abovementioned hashtag and make a suggestion as to how they can ‘co-create SA’ instead of presenting Dutch solutions to local challenges. The selfies can be uploaded to their Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts.


8-26 July
Provenance Auction House
6-8 Vrede Street, Garden Street, Cape Town