Who are the people behind Studio Shelf?
We’re a small team of four designers – Rachal Watson, Benoit Ruscoe, Meghan Adams and I – that share an interest in multidisciplinary design. Our experience is based in branding, but we have had the opportunity to work in product design, advertising, spatial and public participation projects across Africa and London.
Where did the idea of doing a monthly public office come from?
I recently completed a master’s degree at Central Saint Martins in London that saw the birth of Let’s Talk Shop, a design residency aimed at rejuvenating inner-city London high streets. The project enjoyed quite a bit of success and the methodology has been adopted by Hackney Council, among others. On returning to Cape Town and running our office from Long Street we decided to see what a design residency could yield in South Africa, especially investigating the overlap of public and private space. We strongly believe that designers have the ability to solve problems, but too rarely engage with public space and communities. Our agency is based on the principles of value, brilliance and reason and this is what we aim to give every client. We can only achieve this by continually experimenting with new ideas and learning from other people. We love the idea of not knowing how people, spaces or businesses will react to us just popping up. It keeps us on our toes, forces us to be aware of our role as designers and is a fairly stark reminder that what we design has a real effect on the world.
What was the first public office experience like?
It was very, very cold! But we had a great time. We are hugely indebted to Lola’s for putting us up for the day. Since Lola’s is on our office doorstep, there were quite a few people we pass everyday but never speak to who stopped by to ask what we were up to. And they turned out to be from all walks of life: builders, architects, shop owners, students. They all had an opinion about design and were really curious about what we do. There were one or two requests for on-the-spot logo designs, which we were happy to do. And we got to see a few student portfolios which we gave advice on. Shop owners were very keen to learn about the process of design – it seems to be a service that they feel a need for, but have no idea how to access. It was revealing to share opinions on the future of design, its social role (especially with 2014 on our doorstep) and the issues our industry faces with fellow designers.
Where and when will the next public office be?
The next Shelf Public Office will be at the Green Point Stadium MyCiTi bus terminal, just off Helen Suzman Boulevard on Friday, 26 October. We try to keep things flexible, just arrive and see where the day takes us, but I am interested to see how long we’ll be able to work there before a security guard shows up. It begs the question: How public are our city’s public spaces?
Select the image on the right to load a larger version of the map showing where Shelf Public Office will be next.
How do you decide on the locations?
This does sound mad, but we took the linear shape in our logo, placed it over a map of the city and at every point we’ll do an open public office for a day. We would love to do the same with a map of South Africa, Africa, the world!
Can anyone join you?
Yes, please! It can get quite lonely out there and we would love for people to join us. It is a chance to collaborate, experiment, build and participate in a fun way. It would also be great if people have ideas for future public offices – if there’s anything you’ve wanted to do but can’t find someone to do it with you – we will be somewhere every month.
Visit Studio Shelf online for more information about their work, and to get involved in opening up your studio or your office to the city: www.shelf.co.za
Interview Alma Viviers Photographs Lisa Burnell Graphic Studio Shelf