While exhibiting at the Biennale Architettura 2012, architect Pieter Mathews was inspired by a poster encouraging visitors to “take the discussion beyond Venice”. Back in Pretoria, South Africa, with the assistance of a small group of architects and artists, the first uncurated, DIY, guerilla biennale called Cool Capital was launched.
The aim of Cool Capital was clear: dismantle the bureaucratic relationship between citizens and public space and encourage a new ownership for the city.
Designers were encouraged to rediscover marginalised parts of the city’s historic centre, to collaborate with residents by creating pop-up installations and to become active agents in the rethinking of their city as place, destination and capital city. Cool Capital’s uncurated approach meant that the usual bureaucratic processes were short-circuited. It democratized creativity and promoted activism by putting the city into the hands of its creative community.
The city came alive as spontaneous street art and design interventions celebrated the city, inspiring urban renewal, achieving social coherence and, above all, putting a smile on the mind. Cool Capital proved that real change lies in the hands of engaged citizens.
Low on budget but high on innovation, over 150 interventions took place, all of them questioning, challenging, or leveling the status quo. This year Cool Capital continues with the theme “small is big”. Cool Capital has cemented Pretoria as a notable African centre of creativity.