Explore South Africa’s Vibrant Design Scene

This year, our travel-themed Report visited perennial design destinations (Hello, Paris and Tokyo!) as well as places further afield, such as Cape Town and Johannesburg, South Africa. There, we found a thriving design community and a unifying contemporary art scene. Take a look at some of our favorite places and talents.

IN THE ROUND

For many of the great museums of the world, the architecture is as exhilarating as the works of art on display. Following that model is Cape Town’s Zeitz MOCAA, which features the largest collection of 21st-century contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora. London-based Heatherwick Studio converted the 1920s-era former grain silo into a cultural destination by carving open spaces into the concrete tubes that once held corn. The result is a vaulted marvel that inspires the kind of hushed reverence usually reserved for a cathedral.

PHOTO: IWAN BAAN

HOMETOWN TRIBUTE

For Boston-based designer Mally Skok, the South African landscape of her birthplace infuses her cheerful textile designs, which often reference native flora and fauna. “The colors of my fabric line are most definitely informed by the clear and piercing light of my homeland,” she says. “I am always heartened to hear from people that they find my fabrics to be ‘happy’ in nature–that’s exactly how I feel when I am there spending time with friends and family in the glorious sunshine.”

PHOTO COURTESY MALLY SKOK

OBJECT LESSON

Since its launch in Cape Town, the Southern Guild gallery has challenged perceptions about South African design through their highly curated exhibitions, such as “ExtraOrdinary,” which featured the work of artists such as Xavier Clarisse and Chuma Maweni (shown here). “Craft is very old in Africa, but design is young,” says Trevyn McGowan, CEO and co-founder of the Guild Group. “It’s impossible to reduce the diversity and sophistication coming from all corners of the continent, but most African design is rooted in social and political realities, a strong sense of narrative, a true bond with nature, and a sense of human connectedness.”

PHOTO: HAYDEN PHIPPS

NEAR AND FAR

For this sleek dining terrace, Johannesburg-based HK Studio blended modern design classics, such as Norman Cherner chairs and Kartell pendants, with a contemporary South African serving piece created by Durban-based architect Richard Stretton. “The client is a design-focused international traveler with a keen eye for contemporary art, so we tried to employ enigmatic contrasts of international and locally sourced pieces,” says co-owner and designer Andrea Kleinloog.

PHOTO: ELSA YOUNG

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