Paul Duncan | House and Leisure

Paul Duncan

We're profiling six of the 38 World Design Capital 2014 curators, as well as the curator convener. Up until now, the curators have been sifting through the first wave of submissions and they're hoping to see more creative entries between 1 July and 31 July 2013. To submit your design initiative, visit What is your role as the convener? My role as convenor is almost like that of editor. Nearly 600 project submission and 38 curators: my role is to make sense of what's emerging from the process. How was the panel of curators selected? What were the criteria for being chosen? Curators' names were put forward by others, while some sent their own names in. We looked at range of experiences and we tried to find a balance between them so that all areas covered by the submissions would be represented. It appears to be a diverse group, with its members representing 'design' in so many of its facets. How important was this? Absolutely critical. World Design Capital 2014 is about finding ways to apply 'design thinking' to a variety of problems, coming up with solutions that propose to bridge divides, sustain life, transform our society and so on, and relate to areas such as health, transport, urban planning, architecture, product, science & technology, IT, media and much, much more. What are your thoughts on the general quality of submissions thus far? I'm not here to judge, however, while many of the projects submitted fulfil the requirements of the vision for 2014 and our mission to get it right (some more eloquently than others), I'm hoping that the second call for submissions will bring out the superstars I know we have in our midst. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to step up to the plate and really show that alongside Milan, London and other cities where design is important, that in a South African context, we too have a voice – an African voice where we can offer African solutions to African realities. This is possible. I'd like us to be able to showcase our world in our terms using our designers and thinkers. It is being called an 'African bid' - of what significance is this, considering the magnitude of the continent, and of where South Africa sits in this context It is an African bid. This is the first time any city on this continent has had the honour of becoming a World Capital of Design. To a degree, our issues here are the same as those across the continent. In a way this is about establishing a tangible, plausible persona for ourselves in a post-colonial world. Interestingly, in this regard, 2014 falls in the 20th anniversary since the fall of apartheid. 2014 is about the birthing of change. Can you name any type of projects (even if vague) that you would like to see come to fruition in 2014? How long is a piece of string? I'd like the strategic divisions in the physical appearance of our city to come to an end. I'd also like us to be able to look again at our townships: these places aren't going to go away, so how do we make them liveable, functioning, pleasant places whose inhabitants are able to enjoy all the advantages that citizens of a 21st-century metropolis might legitimately and reasonably expect? That must be one of the biggest challenges we face, and I know (because I've seen them) that there are a few projects, which in a myriad of ways, attempt to tackle these issues. What broader commercial (business/tourism etc) spin-offs do you envisage coming out of World Design Capital Cape Town 2014? I would hope, massive. Apart from a level of transformation that our society requires, and that Cape Town WDC2014 is tasked to provide, or at least begin the process of providing, 2014 must also be a showcase for the design brilliance we already have in our midst. And 'design' is used in its widest possible context to include food, interiors, architecture, furniture, ceramics and so on. People will want to come and see what we're doing. The revenue from tourism is an important and integral part in enriching the coffers of those attempting to transform our city. Paul Duncan is a former editorial director at Condé Nast Independent Magazines and former editor of Condé Nast House & Garden (South Africa). He is currently head of design for home ware at Woolworths in South Africa. His published books include two collections of South African interiors 'Down South' and 'Down South Two', and 'Style Icons'. Paul was responsible for the abridgement and picture research for Nelson Mandela's 'Illustrated Long Walk to Freedom'. Get your copy of the July 2013 issue of House and Leisure for an overview on WDC2014.