The best and the worst of 2013

The year with the unlucky-for-some number has come and gone, with so much in between. We ask some of VISI’s favourite designers, architects, curators, authors and opinionistas what their highlights and lowlights are.

Sumien Brink


  • Personal highlight: Seeing a production of War Horse in London. The horses, made by Handspring Puppet Company, will inspire me for ever. Read about Sumien’s other London highlights here.
  • Trend of 2013: Laser-cutting and 3D-printing on the one hand and everything handmade on the other. Read our 3D-printing trend report here.
  • Best of 2013: I absolutely love the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute by Woods Bagot. It’s shimmery, light and inspired by the skin of a pine cone.
  • Worst of 2013: I’m going to cop out, as it is always such a matter of personal taste.
  • New Year’s resolution: Smile and wave all the way!
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That we will be able to deliver what we promised.

Annemarie Meintjes

Deputy editor,

  • Personal highlight: Spending most of 2013 in the air!
  • Trend of 2013: Office for living. Read our reports on how office design is changing.
  • Best of 2013: It’s not new, but I was truly overwhelmed to see it for real… The Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Read more about Dubai’s architecture here.
  • Worst of 2013: Once again Pantone’s Colour of the Year that – emerald green – did not live up to expectations. Stylists push it ­but it does not happen on the high street.
  • New Year’s resolution: To use my Schengen Visa.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That it will draw larger crowds than the Soccer World Cup did. That it will draw the right people, who will introduce our talented designers to the rest of the world. That it will grow an awareness and respect for good design on the ground, here in SA.

Paul Duncan

Paul Duncan Media,

  • Personal highlight: Launching two books – Hidden Cape Town (Random House/Struik) and the Louis Vuitton Cape Town City Guide.
  • Trend of 2013: The lights that came on around the world as sensitised individuals began to twig that the culture of illusion and ego, the desire for status and the values defining greed, are pointless and hollow.
  • Best of 2013: The sensitive refurbishment and redecoration of Lady Phillip’s old guest quarters at the historic Cape Dutch Vergelegen in Somerset West by John Jacob Interiors.
  • Worst of 2013: Cape Town’s full of them. But I don’t want to look backwards at them. I want to imagine a city where innovation in design, architecture and decor come naturally, and beautifully.
  • New Year’s resolution: To start living the changes that need to be made to ensure Cape Town becomes a sustainable city of the future.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That finally it forces people collectively to see that this divided city of ours isn’t sustainable any longer.

Sean Weldon


  • Personal highlight: I am very proud of the fact that since inception we have had over 10 million South Africans visiting our sites, what a milestone. From a creative point of view, it has been a real highlight to see 12 months of sourcing around the world (read Sean’s Milan highlights here), finally materialising in beautifully merchandised settings of our own exclusive products, all produced in-house.
  • Trend of 2013: The urban industrial – the copper and brass trend illustrates a focus on craftmanship vs mass production. Repurposing crates and pallets in brick-and-mortar retail, restaurant and office design.
  • Best of 2013: The refurbishment of the Rex Trueform Building in Salt River, Cape Town. It was designed by Andrews and Niegerman in 1948 with the expansion in 1963 done by Hillel Turrock and Associates. This old factory space is now being transformed into one of the hippest locations in town… and will soon house South Africa’s first e-commerce design showroom.
  • Worst of 2013: Zuma’s Nkandla, of course.
  • New Year’s resolution: To be the coolest omni-channel retailer in the home decor market, watch this space! And another one, never drink cheap wine – life is too short.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: Hoping it builds awareness for design as a way of life rather than as an elitist, inaccessable and blue sky idea. In its simplest form its a range of choice, the choice of blue over red, using a straight rather than a jagged line, living or working in a cluttered rather than minimal environment etc. Obviously we also hope that it will bring millions of cool overseas travellers to our shores.

Laurence Brick

Creative director,

  • Personal highlight: Without a doubt my own highlight of the year was bringing my own passion about design to a project that I have wanted to do for years now – launching 100% Design South Africa. It was fantastic telling people that this great show is coming to South Africa and I’m involved in running it. Dream come true! 
  • Trend of 2013: The return of individualism, celebrating the unique.
  • Best of 2013: South African designers Dokter and Misses’s Kassena server, which sold internationally at five top art fairs. Read more about Dokter and Misses here.
  • Worst of 2013: Developers continuing to build Tuscan, French and European themed homes,  instead of choosing to be part of developing a South Africa design aesthetic.
  • New Year’s resolution: Buy more art; laugh and love more. 
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That it has a lasting legacy for both Cape Town and South Africa, effecting real change that continues to build beyond 2014.

Karen Roos


  • Personal highlight: Completing the spa at Babylonstoren (that won a Cape Architecture Award). As the farm is a heritage site, strict conservation rules required us to be innovative in creating new rooms, so we planted them. It took some time, but the reeds and bamboo have grown into lovely spaces. The spa hammam was also completed in 2013 and therapists trained by a specialist. The marble and mosaic structure was complex to design due to heating requirements and high humidity, but they are holding up well. We lack a spa culture in the Cape, so we all needed to learn. Read more about the fantabulous Babylonstoren here.
  • Trend of 2013: Africa proves to be an inspiration for designers and stylists at art fairs and design expos all over the globe. Read about the prize SA artist Kemang Wa Lehulere won at Art Basel/Miami here.
  • Best of 2013: I also saw the Burj Khalifa for the first time. Like a modern cathedral, it towers above Dubai and inspires boundless confidence. In terms of brand new though, Thomas Heatherwick’s idea for a new pedestrian Garden Bridge across the River Thames, connecting North and South London by way of a park. 
  • Worst of 2013: It’s simply too early to say – but bless your soul, there will be enough of them.
  • New Year’s resolution: Explore Cape Town and environment more like I did when I was a stylist/reporter.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That people do what they usually do well in our town: inspired by the beautiful topography, without any major design industry, without ample capital, to be outrageously creative and create spaces and objects that the rest of the world can enjoy.    

Greg Truen


  • Personal highlight: The opportunity of getting to work in amazing cities like Istanbul and Lagos, and seeing the fantastic development and growth of our team in Cape Town, they really are an exceptional group of people. See SAOTA’s award-winning 34 De Wet street residence here.
  • Trend of 2013: Africa rising.
  • Best of 2013: New York has some great new projects like the Barclays centre, and the brilliant landscaping of the High Line. These are both projects that Cape Town could learn from.
  • Worst of 2013: It’s been the same for many years – RDP housing.
  • New Year’s resolution: To spend more time exploring the cities that we work in.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That the city realises how important the design industry is to Cape Town and that clients, whether they’re corporate, public or private, better understand that design is critical to the success and legacy of a project.

Angela Shaw


  • Personal highlight: Moving to a home with a view of Durban Harbour – water, light, local industry and urbanity.
  • Trend of 2013: How can one live a more integrated, authentic and sustainable urban life?
  • Best of 2013: The Museum of Modern African Design in Maboneng. 
  • Worst of 2013: The ongoing under-representation of the great craft happening in South Africa by the dti as seen at FoodWineDesign in November.
  • New Year’s resolution: Breath out, breathe in.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: More and more stimulation of the local economy by those who design and make things locally. Read about the exciting craft design work the Shaw Sisters are doing here.

Vince Frost


  • Personal highlight: I was in South Africa recently and I was very impressed with Jutas Street (read more about Braamfontein here) in Joburg and Woodstock (read more here) in Cape Town. These creative districts are a wonderful new addition and a great example of creative entrepreneurship.
  • Trend of 2013: Much more individuals giving it a go. It’s great to see companies like Honest Chocolate in Woodstock with such focus on quality and unique brand. We are seeing a lot more artisan start-ups by individuals with a very clear and single-minded passion for producing the best products, objects and experience.
  • New Year’s resolution: To be a better dad 
  • Hopes for WDC2014: I think its a great opportunity for the creative community to get exposure in Sa and the world. Business’s are beginning to understand the power of design and I think there’s tonnes of talent to be given a go.

Katy Taplin


Andrew Makin


  • Personal highlight: Spending more time in Mexico City and winning, along with four other practices, the competition to design the new Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley.
  • Best of 2013: Converting Pixley Kaseme Street, Durban, into a linear park from the Warwick Rail Commuter Station, through the city centre to the beach front. Phase 1 will be implemented by August 2014.
  • Worst of 2013: The construction of yet another batch of office parks and shopping malls is as tragic as the collapse of a portion of the Tongaat Mall north of Durban is. Hopefully it’s metaphoric symbol of things to come.
  • New Year’s resolution: Reduce, concentrate, calm, open, produce.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That we express ourselves as we are, with pride and confidence.

Luke Pedersen and James Lennard


  • Personal highlight: Luke: The birth of my son! James: Riding Wines-to-Wales.
  • Trend of 2013: So many triangles wherever you look!
  • Best of 2013: Too many to mention.
  • Worst of 2013: All the Keep Calm posters. 
  • New Year’s resolution: N/A
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That the opportunity for sustainable growth is grasped.

Megan Hesse


  • Personal highlight: A significant landmark for us was the first release of our Lab Lights, which are now being manufactured in Denmark.
  • Best of 2013: Our favourite design was the SG chair we did for Southern Guild, for which we loved working with Nicky Levenberg on the highly patterned fabric. It was a project that allowed us to play. Browse VISI’s highlights of the Southern Guild exhibition here.
  • Worst of 2013: It’s better to focus on the positive things that are happening, most of the best products come from making mistakes. 
  • New Year’s resolution: To focus more on growing our Anatomy Design store and range of homeware. Read more about Anatomy Design here.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: We hope that by Cape Town being the World Design Capital 2014 it brings consciousness to South African design not only in this year but in all the years to follow.  

Chris Browne


  • Personal highlight: Completing our first home renovation, sort of on time and on budget! We can pop up a small hotel or lodge in the most remote parts of far away countires but working in our own backyard was a massive challenge.
  • Trend of 2013: Laidback mid-century elegance with a sharp focus on quality of materials.
  • Best of 2013: For me it has to be the phase of construction that the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has just entered. The project started in 1882 and is only estimated to be completed in 2028. I cant think of any other design project on Earth as awe-inspiring. Made me cry.
  • Worst of 2013: I guess most Johannesburg restuarants fall into this category. Excluding Tasha’s of course!
  • New Year’s resolution: Onwards and upwards, same as its always been.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: I hope that there will be halo effect that extends beyond Cape Town and that Johannesburg eateries in particular pull up their socks. 

Tessa Sonik


  • Personal highlight: I got hooked
  • Trend of 2013: Vintage
  • Best of 2013: TRANS Continental – our latest corporate collection (read more here). I also think the new building on the Corlett Drive offramp is an amazing building. Read our interview with architect Henning Rasmuss here.
  • Worst of 2013: Luckily cannot say what failed us.
  • New Year’s resolution: Chill more.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: To show more local products. 

Alayne Reesberg


  • Personal highlight: Publication of the first version of our much-anticipated programme for 2014 – it was a long wait! Find out about the 450 gritty and pretty projects here.
  • Trend of 2013: Local is magnificent – celebrate local.
  • Best of 2013: The launch of the Museum of African Design with the Southern Guild collection sent an important signal about South Africa and its aspirations to host and celebrate African design. (Browse VISI’s highlights of the Southern Guild exhibition here.) In the technology world, I am in awe of the Square Kilometer Array project in Carnarvon. It will change the way future generations will understand our place in the universe.
  • Worst of 2013: I just don’t want to go back anywhere, not the 70s, not colour, not textile. I thought it was depressing then, and I still think so.
  • New Year’s resolution: Reconnect, refresh, renew ­– this year has been an incredibly intense and demanding grind.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: Bring the world here to Cape Town, and when they get here, deliver a uniquely Kaapse experience to them. Mountain and people in equal measure.

Lauren Beukes


  • Personal highlight: Putting together The Shining Girls Charity Art Show (browse the full gallery here) with curator Jacki Lang and phenomenal, generous, local artists, designers and illustrators who created original art works on a page ripped from my novel for a good cause. We raised R100 000 for Rape Crisis in 20 minutes! 
  • Trend of 2013: Aren’t trends artificially imposed? More South Africans doing exactly the kind of work they want to do without prescribed ideas of what they should be doing.
  • Best of 2013: Nkandla.
  • Worst of 2013: Nkandla and big brands with budget trying their luck, getting artists and designers to do unpaid work for “the exposure”. Cut it out.
  • New Year’s resolution: Find a way to conquer jetlag and manage my time better so that I can stress less and spend more time with my daughter.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That it creates a showcase for amazing local talent that leads to amazing well-paid commissions. 

Greg Dry


  • Personal highlight: Opening the new Egg store in our hometown Durban and watching my partner’s charcuterie business, Chuck and Bobs, open next door.
  • Trend of 2013: Globally I would say the trend of the reissue of old designs.
  • Best of 2013: If it’s about a project of ours I would like to say Cherry Jewellery in Gateway Shopping Centre.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That people realise that design reaches beyond one city and that the mother city is just a vessel for a short time carrying the label.

Porky Hefer


  • Personal highlight: Finally finding a person brave enough to develop my nest lodge (includes a wine cellar and lounge, among others).
  • Trend of 2013: Cheap imports
  • Best of 2013: The Floating School Project by Kunle Adeyemi.
  • Worst of 2013: New FNB building in Foreshore.
  • New Year’s resolution: Do more.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: Design becoming an economic contributor through support from governmental policies, import control and incentives.

Haldane Martin


  • Personal highlight: The massive amount of positive press coverage that our first big interior project, Truth Coffee HQ, received. Feast your eyes on the steampunk interior here.
  • Trend of 2013: Brooklyn Style. Now that it is named, it’s probably on its way out.
  • Best of 2013: Environ Skincare Products factory reception area that we have just finished.
  • Worst of 2013: The 3D-printed plastic gun. It shoots real bullets but explodes in the hand of the user. The perfect weapon for a suicide terrorist. Read the 3D-printing’s first gunshot here.
  • New Year’s resolution: To design a fantastic new range of upholstered furniture.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: I hope with all the extra attention the world will be giving us, that some of the great projects that have been put forward will receive the funding they require to enable them to be actualised. 

Chantel Hans

Digital and editorial assistant,

  • Personal highlight: Joining the VISI team!
  • Trend of 2013: 3D printing and pop-up shops. 
  • Best of 2013: Duckzilla by Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman – an oversized rubber duck that has made its way around the world never fails to put a smile on my face. I only wish it would make its way to Cape Town.
  • Worst of 2013: I just can’t get over the ostrich pillow! Why would anyone want to look like their brain has morphed into some parasitic fungi beats me… And now they have one for kids as well.
  • New Year’s resolution: Rather than set myself up for failure, I prefer to make minor adjustments throughout the year.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: Seeing the best of SA and international talent on display in our very own Mother City, as well as discovering new and daring creatives.

Debbie Loots

Features writer,

  • Personal highlight: Getting the job as features writer at VISI.
  • Trend of 2013: A return to a more tactile interaction with people and things, to old-fashioned storytelling in response to planet Earth’s wave upon wave of technological tsunamis.
  • Best of 2013: I loved Cape Town’s first Open Design event (read about it here) for showing design’s life-changing and practical applications as well as its graphic art side in the form of the Madiba posters (see them here). And that it warmed us all up for WDC2014.
  • Worst of 2013: That nobody’s taken on the plight of the Werdmuller Centre in Claremont (find out about it here). It’s reimagining would have been a perfect project for WDC2014.
  • New Year’s resolution: I want to ride my bicycle more.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: That it speaks to all people so that those who don’t see themselves as part of the design world don’t experience it as an exclusive event but that they realise that the way to be part of the world is to take part in design. 

Malibongwe Tyilo


  • Personal highlight: Personally it was being listed in Mail and Guardian’s 200 Young South Africans list for 2013. It really was an honour, and incredibly motivating.
  • Trend of 2013: I am as fascinated by design across both interiors and fashion. This year the most definitive trend goes to fashion for me. The monochromatic trend, especially in black and white outfits. I suppose when a classic colour becomes a trend, then lots more of us can jump on the bandwagon.
  • Best of 2013: I was very inspired by the Open Design festival that took place in Cape Town a couple of months ago (read about it here). I love the focus on design that changes lives, especially the lives of Cape Town’s least privileged residents. Ultimately design has to be relevant to our society and be part of the solution, and I really love that we have so many designers who understand this, and they don’t merely design for aspirations.
  • New year’s resolution: Actually, this time around I decided to stay away from that new year’s resolution business, it always eventually leads to failure for me. My birthday was at the beginning of November, so everything I would normally have planned as a new year resolution, I started working on at the beginning of November. I’m not one for astrology and the zodiac, but I chose to suspend disbelief and tell myself that the planets would be aligned in my favour during my birth month, and that whatever project I started then was bound to succeed. As for the resolutions? Am not going to say, but so far so very very very good. It’s in the stars!
  • Hopes for WDC2014: While we at VISI will go to any length to support our local design industry, the reality of the situation is that after design school the world is a tough place for designers, so I hope all the attention that comes with WDC2014 will change the lives of local designers and bring them opportunity. It really is high time that we as a society place far more value in the importance of design and our design community.

Nadine Botha

Features and online editor,

  • Personal highlight: Buying, renovating and making my own home.
  • Trend of 2013: Hexagonals everywhere and cats cats cats. But if I read another open letter…
  • Best of 2013: The FOBLO Bulletin.
  • Worst of 2013: WDC2014’s late start. But we Saffers are excellent last-minuters and at best when jiving impromptu!
  • New Year’s resolution: Work smarter not harder.
  • Hopes for WDC2014: Looking at the programme of community-sourced projects, I hope that they all come off, one way or another. I love the generosity of spirit. The sense of our city being a playground or blank canvas for a year is invigorating. It’s going to be a fantastic social experiment – free internet in public parks in Cape Town, for instance. What will the results of that social design be? Whatever the outcome, of all the projects, I hope we will be big enough to find it insightful, first and foremost.