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The Italian Design Day in Pretoria to promote sustainable architecture

In the framework of the Italian Design Day – organized every year by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to promote Italian design and architecture – the Embassy of Italy in Pretoria, the Italian Institute of Culture and the Consulate General of Italy in Johannesburg, in collaboration with the ITA Trade Agency, hosted on March 22nd, 2022 at the Javett Art Centre in Pretoria the event entitled “Regeneration, Design and new technologies for a sustainable future in Italy and South Africa”. The aim of the meeting was to stimulate the dialogue between Italian and South African actors on sustainable architecture, the renovation of urban settlements, in particular of disadvantaged neighborhoods, and inclusive smart cities, with modern, accessible services.

Moderated by the writer and art critic Ashraf Jamal, the conference was opened by Ambassador of Italy Paolo Cuculi, who shared his view on sustainable urban development, promoting the excellence of Italian design and architecture, and presenting the Candidacy of Rome to host EXPO 2030 to the South African public. The Acting Deputy Director-General of the Department of Cooperative Governance Mohanuoa Mabidilala and Dr Jennifer Mirembe, from the Unit for Planning of the Department of Human Settlements, intervened on behalf of the South African institutions, and illustrated the government’s vision and strategies on urbanism and planning of the cities of the future.

The Italian architects Prof Matteo Poli of the Politecnico di Milano, and Dr Luca Astorri of the AOUMM studio in Milan, have become spokesmen for Italian design, presenting their next projects, characterized by modernity, sustainability and inclusion. The South African architect Carin Smuts, who is strongly committed to the regeneration of disadvantaged township neighborhoods around Cape Town, raised awareness on the role of the local community, and their needs, in planning new buildings, recalling the extreme inequality of South Africa also from the architectural point of view. Another brilliant example of Italian design, declined in the local context, was provided by the Italian-South African architect Claudia Mela, who has recently designed one of the most creative and modern architectural complexes of the city of Johannesburg, the Red Radisson hotel in Rosebank.

The panel was followed by a lively debate with the public, in particular on the difference between Western architectural models in educational establishments and typical African realities, on the necessary involvement of civil society in building projects, on the regulations and steering role of the government, and on the very concept of “smart city”.

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