Natura CO LAB Designs.
Natura CO LAB Designs.
Image: Supplied

Styled as SA’s edgiest design and décor show, Design Joburg returned in 2022 after a Covid-enforced hiatus. The four-year old competitor to shows such as Decorex is now co-owned by a local concern and a UK-based events and media business, Media 10.

The expo, ambitiously, seeks to be a showcase for design, interiors, fashion, architecture and sustainable design practices in the country. The focus is on emerging and innovative talents in these fields, and how design and architectural practices in particular can drive social and economic change, particularly in a post-pandemic era. The accompanying talks programme was well-attended and formed a useful focus for the otherwise rather conventional exhibition booth experience at the convention centre.

Talks spanned fashion, current design trends, the relevance of sustainability in the 21st century and understanding design in the Metaverse, a tech focus that was expanded by the slightly underwhelming VR Architecture Gallery. Much was made of the tech focus in pre-show publicity but not much was in evidence on the floor, the VR tours of recent cutting-edge Joburg developments such as The Bank building in Rosebank and The Leonardo in Sandton proving somewhat limited by the headset-and-joystick format. The VR experience was augmented by a physical tour of the buildings, however. 

The format of the show was, in common with Art Joburg 2021, consisted of various exhibition and live events in different parts of the city. The main expo ran from May 19-21 at the Sandton Convention Centre, while the fringe event — Design Joburg Collective (which included industry walkarounds, trend talks and networking events) kicked off on May 17 and ran for the whole week in the different surrounds of décor and design districts Kramerville and 44 Stanley. 

As a result, the show became rather diluted among its different venues and the different content available in each locale — something that also bedevilled Art Joburg’s commendable attempt to make that event more inclusive of the city’s different spaces and realities. The show’s CoLabs concept, where local designers work together to create evocative and boundary-pushing room sets, appeared more coherent and interesting to this observer. Part of this was staged as the venue for the opening of the Design Collective Fringe at the Always Welcome store in Kramerville’s Design Quarter. These designed interior environments, mostly domestic but of different kinds, were fully realised by interior décor teams, furniture makers and integrated AV technology companies, all collaborating to envision the stunning and cutting-edge room designs. This event and part of the show is the one most focused on upcoming talent, many of whom have been mentored by established designers.

BoConcepts.
BoConcepts.
Image: Supplied

By contrast, many of the store owners at 44 Stanley across town seemed only dimly aware of Design Joburg’s existence. In fairness, I visited on one of the coldest days of the year, which may also have explained the absence of visitors.

Design Joburg has much to recommend it and a commendably ideas-driven design agenda for their show. If they can crack the spatial conundrum that is an inclusive experience of Joburg to go with it, they have a winner.

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