Cape Town’s biggest design market? An Interview with Trevyn McGowan

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is being shaken up by one of the most prolific figures in South African design: Trevyn McGowan. R50 million has been invested into the revamping of the former Blue Shed Craft Market into a new hub of craft, design, and wellness called The Watershed As Curator of The Watershed, Trevyn offers Future Cape Town some insight into her vision for the space. MAIN_2673320a Anna Brown: Markets are public meeting spaces where people come together and trade. How do you want the Watershed to support the interaction of people with each other, and designers or traders?

Trevyn McGowan: Everything that we have been working towards in the South African design industry over the last ten years is about building a society of makers. Because design in South Africa is a very young industry – only about 10 or 15 years old – our vision has been to create platforms or conduits to make the design industry feel cohesive. That vision carries through to The Watershed space. We want to bring people together and make them feel supported through the process of what we see as an elevation to the next level of commercial viability. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront offers the highest footfall on the continent, more than the Pyramids in Egypt. The market traders will have exposure to that kind of volume of people, which will increase their possibility for sales and introduce them to a more professional and upscale environment.

AB: What makes this market different to other retail stores or spaces that offer a collection of South African design and craft?

TM: Wolff Architects very intentionally wanted to create a dynamic urban environment, and rather than an enclosed mall or center, the ends of the building are open, so the market becomes part of the street. It will feel very porous, alive, and animated, like a European street market. The architecture is also spectacular. The original structure of the building has this big steel spine that runs through the center. The architect had a visionary concept of suspending the upper floors on that steel structure so that the upper level floats and the space is completely open.

Rendering of the market interior (Photo by Design Indaba)

Rendering of the market interior (Photo by Wolff Architects)

Lastly, it’s going to be the biggest permanent design market in Cape Town. There will be over 150 stalls. There will be a mix of people who sell goods, but there will also be services, for example a tailor shop, and a nursery. The amount of people living in the direct vicinity is also going to increase rapidly. There are a lot of flats coming on the market and they are properties that you can’t sublet. They wont be holiday flats; there will be people actually living and working in that area. It is going to be very busy and very diverse.

AB: How can Capetonians relate to the Watershed?

TM: It is one of the primary objectives of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront that the market isn’t perceived as just a tourist destination. They have been investing a huge amount in placemaking, creating things like a running track and play areas throughout the Waterfront. They want Capetonians to use it as their backyard. It will be the kind of place where you will come after work, have a massage, buy things for your home, and then take evening classes in ceramics. You will be able to experience the Waterfront in a way that you never have been able to before.

Rendering of the market interior (Photo by Design Indaba)

Rendering of the market interior (Photo by Wolff Architects)

The Watershed will open to the public in mid-2014. For the latest updates:

Listen to our previous radio interview with Trevyn McGowan on the launch of the Guild Design Fair.