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Cape Town's 'Open House': stand up and have your say

29 Jun 2015

Synonymous with interesting and vibrant open spaces dotted among a mix of historic, redeveloped and modern buildings which are home to businesses and residents alike, Cape Town’s central city never ceases to innovate. 

Now, a new artistic landmark on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets is set to celebrate the Western Cape’s diversity. Envisaged as a symbol of democracy and called ‘Open House’ this is an open platform for artistic expression and freedom of speech.

This is the view of Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property group, who says ongoing redevelopment and transformation of Cape Town’s central city was spearheaded by the conversion from office to residential of certain iconic landmark buildings, including Mutual Heights and Cartwrights Corner, to name just two. 

He says both these buildings sold out within weeks of the launch, which showed the enormous pent-up demand for central city living and sparked off a trend which at its height saw the launch of Mandela Rhodes Place in 2006. “Since then the heart of the city has become a thriving hub pulsing with life and activity, embraced by an increasing groundswell of new residents, investors, the business sector and visitors and tourists from around the globe.” 

An endorsement of the continued success and global appeal of Cape Town is the recent announcement that it has retained its position as the “number 1 destination for business events in Africa” on the 2014 International Congress and Convention Association Country and City rankings. 

Now, a new artistic landmark on the corner of Long and Dorp Streets is set to celebrate the Western Cape’s diversity. Envisaged as a symbol of democracy and called ‘Open House’ this is an open platform for artistic expression and freedom of speech - seen as a creative means of encouraging dialogue and interaction between people from all walks of life. 

The winning concept in the Western Cape Government Public Art Competition, Open House was designed by Kimberly-born artist Jacques Coetzer, who drew inspiration from corrugated metal structures, RDP homes and the facades of Long Street’s buildings. With striking red corrugated iron frames, staircase and balconies, it will proudly stand 10.5m tall. 

Opening in July 2015, the thought-provoking artwork will be on permanent display and in direct view in order to engage with traffic and passing pedestrians. And Open House will be exactly that – an open forum for poetry sessions, talks by international dignitaries, theatre productions and annual events. It will encourage dialogue, lively interaction and the trading of ideas. 

Rob Kane, chairperson of the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) says to attract people back into a CBD, one of the first things that needs to be done, after cleaning up the area and making it safe, is to provide public spaces where they want to spend time outdoors. 

“We’re very proud of the fact that the Central City is so successful, not only through the beautiful public squares that we have with wonderful art installations, but through activations such as First Thursdays and the Saturday City Walk that happens on the third Saturday of every month,” says Kane. “This increases people’s desire to live and work in town, and speaks to the true ‘downtown’ lifestyle that you find in the major cities in the world that have a strong residential component.” 

In terms of public art, and along with the numerous art installations that have existed in the Central City for a number of years, Kane says they are also seeing new ones being installed - such as the recent installation of the late Paul du Toit’s ‘Into Tomorrow’ piece on Riebeek Square. 

“As the CCID, we also welcome the work of graffiti or street artists and encourage corporates to look at how they can be part of this beautification of the CBD,” he says. 

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