Circa Gallery.
Circa Gallery.
Image: rosebank.joburg

Over the weekend I drove through Sandton, and it left me foul. It wasn’t the banana-yellow Lamborghini that cut in front of me that did it, nor was it the over-whelming digital billboards flashing images of local “celebs” and Kim, Kourtney, and the krew. Rather, a strange new complex going up on South Road was the trigger.

If you’ve travelled down that drag recently, you’ll know which one I’m talking about. If not, look out for the homage to quasi-Roman precast-concrete balustrades, and you’ll see what I’m on about. This is Tuscany meets Miami Beach in the most perplexing manner. And that’s just the good bits.

The development is also being ensconced by a wall so archaically and gratuitously decorative that it may have formerly been a prop in a medieval reenactment village. Indeed, as walls go, you’d only be able to find one more over-the-top on First Road, Hyde Park. But it’s still early days for the new rampart rising just off Rivonia Road, so possibly the classical sculptures haven’t arrived yet.

Anyhow, in an effort to kibosh my ranting about this brick blight, my sister suggested listing design that is great. The antithesis of the woeful wall, in other words. She meant items that make our hearts sing, and not just because they look great but also because they’re clever, considered, and improve life — such is the measure of excellent design.

And, surprise, surprise, chatting about a swirl of superb swipeable screens and Scandi pillows was diverting. I’ve been writing about design for 20 years, so perhaps it has disproportionate importance in my life. That said, have a look at the design I love below, and then do your own list. It will remind you of the brilliance of human creativity, the joy that small things can bring, and that really, great design is all around. Just not on South Road.

The Anglepoise lamp

This British icon, designed in 1932 by George Carwardine, is everything you want in a task light. No wonder they never go out of fashion.

The Anglepoise lamp.
The Anglepoise lamp.
Image: Supplied

Maasai shuka cloth and Welsh woven blankets

Innumerable cultures boast their own fabrics, but these two bold and graphic examples have my textile top spots wrapped up.

Maasai shuka cloth.
Maasai shuka cloth.
Image: Supplied

Apple product synching

You copy a paragraph on your iPhone, you click “paste” on your MacBook, and voila — that same paragraph appears on your computer.

Apple store in Chengdu, China.
Apple store in Chengdu, China.
Image: Zhiyue/Unsplash

BMW’s head office and Circa Gallery

It is a jaded person who no longer thrills at driving past these Highveld architectural highpoints. Hans Hallen’s 1984 Midrand masterpiece for the German automotive brand and the studio MAS 2009 slatted space for Everard Read in Rosebank are both buildings in the round that are roundly brilliant.

Circa Gallery.
Circa Gallery.
Image: rosebank.joburg

Reebok Classic Leather white trainers

The OGs from 1983 — otherwise known as the perfect, just retro-enough white trainers. They go with everything.

Reebok Classic Leather white trainers.
Reebok Classic Leather white trainers.
Image: Supplied

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite

Real books are magic, but so is not being crippled by the weight of a new hardback while lying in bed reading.

Kindle Paperwhite.
Kindle Paperwhite.
Image: Supplied

Margaret Calvert’s road-sign system

South African-born Calvert designed the UK’s road-sign system with Jock Kinneir in 1965. We all understand the clean, pictogram-based traffic signs she developed — including the “roadworks ahead” and “children crossing” signs — because South Africa adopted much of what they’d created for our roads.

Margaret Calvert’s road-sign system.
Margaret Calvert’s road-sign system.
Image: Supplied

Design Indaba

Calvert spoke at the Design Indaba conference in 2016. For almost two decades, from 1995, the Cape Town event was one of the most important global design gatherings, attracting everyone from architect Sir David Adjaye to the man who designed the I “heart” NY sign, Milton Glaser. Founder Ravi Naidoo’s annual African assemblage of the most important design thinkers in the world was the design trick of the century. It is missed.

Design Indaba.
Design Indaba.
Image: Supplied
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