01/RECONNECTING THE CITY
Political opposition to apartheid reached its zenith in the 1980s and Cape Town’s streets once again rang to the sounds of voices and footsteps as Capetonians reclaimed the city in political marches, masses and mass meetings. Fitting then, that when Nelson Mandela was released, it was on the Grand Parade that tens of thousands of residents gathered to greet him at his first public appearance. Bounded by the City Hall, the Castle and the Cape Town railway station, the Grand Parade’s significance as the centre of public life in Cape Town had been in decline and the space was used mainly for parking and market stalls trading in a miscellany of goods. This trend continued during the 1990s and it was only recently that the Grand Parade was upgraded and successfully used as Cape Town’s official FIFA Fan Fest during the World Cup. There are now plans to revitalise this public space, restoring it for the use of everyone. For the past decade the inner city itself has been the centre of a major regeneration project, driven and funded by a private/public partnership. While the Cape Town Partnership facilitates strategic collaboration that has brought development and investment to the city, its operational arm, the Central City Improvement District, has created a safe, clean environment. The restoration of District Six to its historic claimants and redevelopment of the area is underway, albeit painstakingly slowly and beset with political challenges. The area linking it to the Central City is, however, enjoying a rapid reawakening. The East City, as it’s called, is occupied by an increasing number of creative industry enterprises, as well as artists, musicians and writers, and theatres, coffee shops and restaurants – reprising the precinct’s role as the centre of creativity in the city. This is also where the East City Design Initiative is planned, an innovation hub focused on design and ICT that will provide the space and impetus for those in creative industries to benefit from the growing knowledge economy. What was once the Cape Technikon is now a campus of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology where the unique Faculty of Informatics and Design promotes socially conscious design, and staff and students collaborate with communities to find design solutions to social challenges.