The gritty and the pretty… Andrew Matthews runs down his top design spots to visit in 2014, in this virtual tour of some of the world’s most cutting edge architecture and urban development.

Cape Town is ‘World Design Capital 2014’. I kind of love saying that. Not just because it’s been a long time coming and is well deserved for a city that’s shown astonishing creative resilience even in the most extreme circumstances, but also because South Africa’s oldest city is one of my favourites, being a Saffa.

Image by slack12

Cape Town – everywhere

Three times the size of New York and home to 3.6 million people, Cape Town’s official line as World Design Capital 2014 is ‘Live Design. Transform Life’ and it’s a worthy sentiment.  Although for me what really rang true was Design CEO, Alayne Reesburg’s quote about educating people on ‘The gritty and the pretty’, that sounds like the Cape Town I know.

Image by Sandy Greenway Photography

That sustainable and responsible design are key to 2014 for Cape Town won’t come as that much of a surprise to anyone who’s been there. The city’s already recognised internationally for its commitment to sustainable tourism and well known for using the mundane and discarded to create amazing art and design.

So one of the most intimate and engaging events for 2014 will be the Maboneng Township Arts Experience in February and March when the people of Gugelethu open their doors to the world.

All in all there are 450 projects planned for Cape Town’s year as World Design Capital ranging from noisy and public to quietly personal and getting into everything from food and music to art, design, crafts and even doodling apparently.

Truth Coffee, Cape Town. Image by Shanna Jones

And since you’re here anyway, you might as well make an effort to include spectacular Table Mountain (by cable car), a visit to Robben Island (particularly moving this year), the huge V & A Waterfront (South Africa’s most visited attraction according to Facebook check-ins 2013) and Bay Harbour Market (original music and art). Or you could just hang out and watch one of the world’s most diverse cities do its stuff. That never gets old.

Staying on the subject of design, if you don’t make it to Cape Town, you’ll be pleased to know that one or two other places are worth visiting to have a good gawp in 2014.

Miami – PAMM

In and around Miami anytime? Make it your mission to see PAMM (Pérez Art Museum Miami) on Miami Beach. Designed by Swiss architects Herzog and De Meuron, the building is stunning – think galleries on stilts draped in planting with views of the city just as incredible as the art collection. Over 1800 works (predominantly American and Latin American) make up the permanent collection plus there are galleries for visiting exhibitions and a vast open plan screening area. Visit on a Sunday afternoon and you have the spectacle of bikini clad locals getting their culture on – very Miami Beach.

Ghent – Ghent Market Hall

Image by Klaas Vermaas

If you aren’t fussed about the weather, Ghent Market Hall should be on your design-must-see list this year. A huge, freestanding astonishment of a structure, Ghent Market Hall looks as if it quite simply landed and took up permanent residence amongst the great and the good of the city’s ancient and traditional architecture. Principally a shopping plaza (market was probably a hint there) it’s hugely incongruous but strangely at home in Ghent and looks even better at night. Designed by Belgian architects Robbrecht & Daem and Marie-José Van Hee Architecten, the mighty market hall is up for all sorts of awards in 2014.

London – Serpentine Sackler Gallery Extension

Image by Luke Hayes

The Serpentine Sackler Gallery Extension in Hyde Park, London is the first permanent building in the city by renowned architect Zaha Hadid. Instantly identifiable by the luscious curves that define Hadid’s work, the extension adds to the Magazine Building (a 200 year old gunpowder store) and houses the Magazine Restaurant. It should look out of place, but Hadid’s almost organic signature looks very at home next to a heritage building in Hyde Park.

Copenhagen – Höst Restaurant

Image by Jonas Bjerre-Poulsen

Höst Restaurant, designed by Norm Architects and Menu won the 2013 ‘Restaurant & Bar Design Awards’ Best Restaurant Design. It’s minimalist, rustic/industrial and continues the growing Danish tradition of ruling the world in food and design (for the moment anyway). Höst’s right in the centre of Copenhagen and currently a lot less expensive and easier to book than Noma, but that could all change so don’t hang about.

London – ME Hotel

Image by Francisco Guerrero

The other Norm (Mr Foster) pretty much dominates the London skyline now with large pointy, jaggy structures that would give any therapist a field day. But presumably the omnipresent architect’s too busy hoovering up every bit of available urban space to lie on a couch and chat. Foster and Partners latest venture is their first completely custom designed hotel on Aldwych Crescent in London’s West End.

ME Hotel is just a hotel, but right on top is another signature jaggy, glass structure, Atrium Champagne Bar. Like having a drink inside a huge, crystal prism it’s worth a visit for the unlikely looking sofas alone and the views from the terrace are okay too.

Rotterdam – Wilhelmina Wharf

Image by LukePricePhotography

Rotterdam was almost completely levelled during WWII, as a result its landscape is quite aggressively contemporary. The city’s Wilhelmina Wharf is particularly impressive showcasing the work of some of the world’s most lauded architects (Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, OMA, Mecanoo, Alvaro Siza). It’s here you’ll find the vast Erasmus Bridge (not quite as mesmerising as Copenhagen’s Harbour Bridge, but getting there).

And that’s my line up of new design go-sees for 2014. I know I didn’t even mention Berlin but there’s so much happening design wise in the designer’s favourite city I couldn’t have done it justice here. My hottest 2014 ticket is still Cape Town though and if I’m not back home soon I’ll want to know why.

This post was penned for Urban Travel Blog by Andrew Matthews, writer in residence for holiday rental experts HouseTrip.com. Check out some of his other sterling including great views over the world’s best cities and ten travel gifts worth buying!

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