Once a mere sailor’s refreshment station at the southernmost tip of Africa, Cape Town has been designated World Design Capital for 2014. The bid and designation happened way back in 2012, and the ensuing build-up has set off an eruption of change and innovation as the city’s creative fraternity has geared up for the expected flood of design-curious visitors.
Cape Town reborn
Projects linked with urban regeneration, revival and rejuvenation are everywhere, but one has only to walk the length of Bree Street for a sense of the change that’s afoot. Once a lonely boulevard where nothing much happened except back and forth traffic, Bree is now strung with go-to spots for everything from the best (gourmet) pies in town (at Jason, commandeered by Cape Town’s most popular baker) to South Africa's original craft beer salon (&Union, 110 Bree) to Paul Smith originals (corner of Bree and Wale). Lining Bree, restored old buildings sport eye-catching licks of paint, and are now reborn as upbeat galleries (Youngblood, 70–72 Bree), diners (Clarke’s, 133 Bree), cafes (Café Frank, 160 Bree), bars (The Orphanage, 227 Bree), and breakfast joints (Frieda’s, 15 Bree).
Even farther east, the Victorian-era industrial suburb of Woodstock was once the seldom-visited down-and-out neighbour to genteel Cape Town, lined with derelict warehouses and factories crying out for new purpose. Now Woodstock groans under the weight of great restaurants (The Test Kitchen and The Pot Luck Club, which sit side-by-side and are helmed by the same celebrity chef, Luke Dale-Roberts), designer stores, galleries, and the country's most famous weekend market. It hasn’t lost its edge, but now the abundant graffiti looks more like it’s part of an humungous open-air gallery than a marker of urban decay. There are stalwarts, of course. It was here, at The Kitchen, that Michelle Obama chose to eat when she visited the city in 2011. Across the road, The Armoury is a boxing club that has for several years attracted braying crowds for its occasional Friday night white collar bouts. More recent developments include The Woodstock Exchange and Woodstock Foundry. The Exchange has something for everyone with a keen eye and sophisticated palate: there’s Rosetta for artisan-roasted coffee, Field Office for smart café vibes, and Superette for daytime dining.
Header photo: The popular Clarke's diner on Bree Street © Clarke’s
Written by Keith Bain
Have you seen any of Cape Town's new design landmarks? Which is your favourite neighbourhood to explore?
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About the author: KeithBainKeith Bain
Cape Town-based writer Keith Bain has co-authored guidebooks to India, South Africa, Eastern Europe, Kenya & Tanzania, Ireland, and Italy. He also co-wrote A Hedonist's guide to Cape Town, and is the co-founder of Best Kept (www.bestkeptshhh.com), a bespoke trip-planning company that tailors holidays in India and Africa.