The Cool Capital of 2014 Pretoria, Gauteng

by Tania Wannenburg
Cool Capital

Cool Capital Biennale 2014 is a citizen-lead initiative to bring about visual, perception and actual change to Pretoria.

A number of small interventions are being planned for next year and the aim is to introduce the public to a wealth of art, urban design, architecture and sculpture creations. The public will be able to interact with these civic interventions and everyone is welcome to contribute and attend.

The Cool Capital campaign is going to be web based, app and mobi driven and it will culminate in a prestigious catalogue documenting the entire inaugural Biennale. The creative talents and art works will be showcased well beyond South Africa’s borders.

The president of the Institute for Architecture, Pieter Mathews, is spearheading the project and he recently gave a presentation on the initiative. “The idea is to bring visual, perceptual and real changes to Pretoria and the surrounding metropolitan area of Tshwane,” said Mathews.

During the presentation, Mathews referenced Good Ideas for Cities, a Biennale grassroots urban initiative that was held in Venice, Italy last year. The city has been hosting this particular Biennale for many years, showcasing art exhibitions, a selection of pavilions, presentations and other citizen lead initiatives throughout the Venice.

One of the exhibitions, for examples, showcased pull down posters that worked on a pulley system. “Local challenges and issues, such as ghettos, dangerous streets and unused playgrounds, were listed on these posters. The pulley system was created so that the poster would be lifted in order to reveal the solutions,” explained Mathews.

Why 2014?

Mathews says that the Cool Capital project is being planned for 2014 because it gives the public, organisers and tertiary institutions time to contribute and become involved. “We’ve got enough time to budget and secure sponsors for Cool Capital. It also gives us enough time to properly conceptualise the initiative and design schools as well as universities will be able to include the project in their curriculum. Another important reason for this initiative to be hosted in 2014 is the fact that we can’t let Durban and Cape Town have all the fun,” joked Mathews when referring to the fact that the campaign is scheduled to run from 23 August 2014 until 29 November 2014, concurrently with the Cape Town 2014 World Design Capital event and the Durban Otherwhere 2014 conference of the International Union of Architects.

“The World Design Capital title, which Cape Town has for 2014, is awarded in advance, allowing winning cities sufficient time to plan, develop and promote a year-long programme of World Design Capital-themed events for their designated year,” said Mathews.

Why Pretoria?

With nothing planned in Gauteng and the world’s design attention on South Africa, an initiative was born to host a Design Biennale in and for the City of Tshwane/ Pretoria. This biennale will not compete with the events held in Cape Town and Durban but rather be complimentary to them.

“With the expected influx of design conscious tourists and the awareness created among the general South African public, it is only logical that a biennale bringing Architecture, Art and Design to the people would not only enhance and give weight to the other two events, but also add value to the built environment of the city,” said Mathews before adding that this impact should be felt years after 2014 with many of these interventions contributing to the image of our City.

Cool Capital is going to be all about art, architecture, urban design, interior design, product design and sculptures. Structures and exhibitions that will be erected can include permanent or temporary structures as well as illusionary structures (such as projections onto buildings). The intervention types that will make this happen include small pavilions, entrance gates, schools, benches, street furniture, signage, public domain upgrades, graffiti/painted facades, public sculptures as well as installation art.

These interventions and initiatives will be showcased all over the city. “The possibilities are endless,” said Mathews before listing schools, the Botanical Gardens, city parks, walkways, building facades, public parks, shopping malls, university grounds, art galleries and private commercial developments as possible spaces that can be used.

There are, however, a few rules and criteria for public exhibitions and art work. “The intervention must be open and accessible to the public – physically or visually. It should also preferably be open on weekends for the duration of the Biennale. The intervention needs to be within the municipal bylaws and nation laws; it needs to be creative and it can’t be for commercial gain such as advertising. Basically, anything goes and it’s open to individuals and groups,” explained Mathews.

“Let’s make 2014 the Year of Design, Art and Architecture in South Africa,” concludes Mathews.


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