From Lisbon to Cape Town – 6 urban ideas for the Mother City (Part 2)

“why, surrounded by fruitful agricultural land, do produce markets not form part of all Capetonians’ daily lives?”


photo-13Reflecting on a 3 month stay in Lisbon, Janine Loubser, an urban planner returns to Cape Town, with inspiring ideas and lessons for the Mother City (Part 2).

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By Janine Loubser

Read the first part here

Idea 4: A more accessible, attractive shoreline

In an article for Studio Rotterdam I wrote about the importance of creating accessible interactions between the people of a city and its waters. Cities are coming up with creative and innovative ways in which citizens can directly experience the water’s edge, such as in Lisbon with the opening of the Ribeira das Naus riverfront in Cais do Sodre. Once a forgotten wasteland cut off from the rest of the city by rail tracks and factories, the area now boasts a pedestrian promenade leading onto a concrete beach, becoming one of the most popular public spaces in the city with good access to public transport including ferries, metro and train.


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Ribeira das Naus riverfront – on sunny days these steps are packed with locals drinking sangria and enjoying the river breeze

Cape Town hosts a variety of successful public destinations along the water’s edge, such as the V&A Waterfront and the Sea Point Promenade. But access to the water at a metropolitan scale is not yet fully optimised, even though rethinking the future of the Cape Town foreshore area has been on the agenda for many years. In 2013 a group of UCT students were asked to come up with creative solutions for the area, while in 2014 a team of consultants were commissioned to come up with a new vision for the Port Gateway precinct. Could the Foreshore Freeway project set the scene for breaking through infrastructure barriers to finally allow pedestrians of the CBD to seamlessly enjoy access to water’s edge? Are there other ways in which the City can reconnect residents of Cape Town with its waters at a metropolitan-wide publicly accessible scale?

Idea 5: Combining markets with an increasing appreciation of fresh local produce

The notion of doing your weekly shopping at a fresh produce market is such a natural part of everyday European life that it is almost unimaginable to visit a city without finding a square or plaza lined with food stalls and stands. This is certainly also the case in Portugal where small towns proudly host local street vendor markets or neighbourhoods in bigger cities host regeneration-driven foodie hangouts in old factories (such as Mercado da Ribeira, Mercado Campo de ourique and the Forno do Tijolo Market). These markets are always either located in established, socially integrated spaces or in an area where public investment towards social development is targeted. In this way sustainable food patterns directly contribute to the upgrading of the urban environment.


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Farmers’ markets in Cape Town vary from well established informal enterprises such as street vendors to upmarket organic markets selling fresh produce and niche designer crafts (such as the Bay Harbour market in Hout Bay, Earth Fair market in St George’s Mall, the Palms market in Woodstock or the Oranjezicht market at the V&A Waterfront). The continuous increase of these weekly activities is a clear indication that those who can afford the time and costs of these markets are willing to support the notion of locally sourced produce. The real question is why, situated at the top of one of the most productive regions in Southern Africa surrounded by fruitful agricultural land, do markets not form part of all Capetonians’ daily lives? Is there a way in which the City can merge the establishment of sustainable markets with the elevation of community meeting places or the upgrading of strategic public spaces? (Read more about Future Cape Town’s ideas for the enhancement of markets in Cape Town here)

Idea 6: (pro)Claim your creativity

In response to recent processes of regeneration driven by public initiatives the city of Lisbon has taken a firm stance on establishing cultural quarters throughout the city in spaces where need for intervention, together with private interest, already exist. These not only take on a physical, architectural nature through the reuse of traditional buildings and attracting design studios or restuarants (see popular examples such as LX Factory in Alcântara or the Braço de Prata Factory at Poço do Bispo) but also come in the form of bold changes to the streetscapes in which they unfold. Rua Nova do Carvalho – now famously known as the Pink Street – got its name from exactly that – José Adrião Arquitectos leveled out the street, implemented subtle barriers which now block off cars, injected the walls with urban art and painted the whole length of the street pink. Although somewhat overcrowded these days with music and early morning parties – this street is at the heart of the rejuvenation of this once barren dockland neighbourhood and is proof that something as simple as a coat of bright paint can spark a whole process of proclaimed creativity and fame.



Rua Nova do Carvalho underwent a visual makeover and is now more commonly referred to as “The Pink Street”

Can the city move beyond neighbourhood brands like Fringe, and in addition to First Thursdays or Design Indaba really engage with the characterisation of our neighbourhoods through physical interventions that are bold but sensitive? (Read about the Parow Station Street Art project here as a good local example). While studying planning I investigated the spatial location of creative industry activities in Cape Town and how these could be agglomerated into unique precincts throughout the city. Can this be adopted as a policy to promote economic development as well as social upliftment at a metropolitan scale?



Map of Cape Town showing proposed creative precincts and their primary characteristics (The Fringe and beyond: Cape Town as a Creative City for All – Janine Loubser dissertation, School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, UCT, 2012)



The oldest links between South Africa and Europe are through Portugal and its voyages of discovery. During my 3 month voyage it became clear that these explorations are important sources of inspiration to learn from other cities and expand our knowledge of international best practice projects. Perhaps in the near future Capetonians will be standing on an African version of a “miradouro” watching over Cape Town, feeling proud of accessible activities along the shoreline, creatively design-driven developments stimulating economic growth, and appropriately occupied ground floors in neighbourhoods that have been inclusively regenerated and coloured green with locally driven and supported fresh produce markets.


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