The Bank is a full design collaborative consisting of Furnspace-3D, Aiden Bennetts Design, Edge Interiors (Stephen Lasker), FVE Interiors, Formula-D interactive, ELE Creative Studio and other independent freelance designers at 71 Harrington Street.
CCT: Tell us about the name The Bank?
Aiden and Steven: The working title that seems to appease all at this stage is The Bank due to the fact that it was a branch of FNB dating back to 19-voetsek… but furthermore it denotes the nature of the collaboration, the idea that we pool our resources. We are thinking of a tagline, something like “design is our currency”.
CCT: Who is The Bank?
Aiden and Steven:Furnspace-3D (distributors of InteriCAD 3D interior design software)
Aidan Bennetts Design (product, interior, retail and corporate design turnkey service)
Francois van Eeden Interiors(specialist corporate design agency)
Formula-D interactive<>(specialists in touchscreen, projection, 3D mapping and various other multimedia technologies, and Loerie Award winner)
Everybody Loves Everybody (product, web and graphic design… surfers… )
CCT: How do you see the concentration of related fields, products or services in close proximity as a plus for all involved?
Steven: There is definitely a synergy and network effect that grows as you bring together, in a space, the right people who buy into the vision of The Bank.
Aiden:The main emphasis is on design. In The Bank we have interior, product, graphic and web design. Each of these feeds off and borrows skills from the others to provide a comprehensive design service. The tool of InteriCAD becomes the common platform by which we share ideas and ultimately create visualisations for our clients so they can understand what they are commissioning.
CCT: How do you feel The Fringe will benefit from the presence of these new companies? Is it just that there will be fewer empty buildings, or are we seeing an emerging warehouse village of design and innovation representatives, for real?
Aiden:The Fringe is in early stages thus far and needs some serious activation to come together and create resonance with the public. As a collaboration we will have approximately 30 designers in a building, all working on various projects and adding to The Fringe voice as it were.
Steven: I agree. It’s early days but we need visible signs and we believe The Bank, which is geographically in the centre of The Fringe, could be one of the activation points to get the ball rolling a bit faster. Every day someone new visits the building and the message should spread from there a lot more easily.
CCT: We first saw a vast open space, an empty roof, a shared room with hot desks – what has changed in the space? Any heritage considerations?
Steven: We’ve come a long way since then. One 200m2 space is now a fully upmarket design studio with five interiors. Another is becoming a more relaxed creative space with possibility for event hosting, cinema evenings and, I am sure, people working day and night, lights on, which also generates a new type of energy in area, e.g. ELE Creative Studio. We’re looking at the roof with all sorts of potential ideas (coming up in 3D) on the planning board – another 500m2. Furnspace is now 150m2 with a dedicated training area and incubation centre for young designers using our software to enable them to then move out into industry on their own or, for some, to stay in building and join our new services division.(Maybe to be named “bank services”.) We’re looking at heritage and have a heritage student in the building looking at this as a project. Downstairs the admin entrance to The Bank will be totally reactivated to make it a focal point and this will then become a public event and product space, technically directed by Aiden and creatively directed by Steve Lasker. Formula-D interactive will contribute from an interactive multimedia display angle with hardware technology. Michael Woolf is one of the Cape Town Design Network committee members, so this could also be a meeting space.
CCT: The Fringe is currently chatting to interested parties about finding (and developing) suitable studio spaces. It’s been very interesting seeing the empty shells in the area, but difficult to imagine how one would do up or divide up the spaces to suit unusual tenants that need malleable workspaces. You trade in 3D software especially suited to mocking up architectural and interior-related renderings; was it a cinch to decide how to do it at The Bank? Did you consult with your potential tenants?
Steven: This is becoming a really exciting part of our services we are beginning to explore. We enabled Excelsior House to let their second floor to a hi-tech IT company once they had seen what the space could look like. I see this as an especially unique angle of what we can contribute to helping the area develop. The first step is to visualise collaborative open work spaces and how to make them happen.
CCT: How did you keep costs down in developing The Bank?
Steven: Keep things simple – outsource, collaborate. And with our software we can move quickly and accurately – this all helps.
Aiden: Instead of investing heavily in isolated resources we generally pool our resources – hardware, software and people. This reduces individual company overheads as we are able to upscale according to the nature of the project.
CCT: It’s necessary and important for The Fringe to invest in sustainable development, especially regarding greening and a reduced carbon footprint. Are any of the improvements and alterations to the space green-approved or green-sensitive?
Steven: We’ve started to look at this angle but at this stage still need to meet the right “green experts”.
CCT: What’s next for Furnspace? What are the plans for it and the communal space in the next while? Perhaps a viral video showcasing Cape Town fashion designs before they’ve even been made? (Is that even possible with your software? Or conceivable in the future?)
Steven: Yes. Create a vision and a business model that is consistent with that vision, use 3Dvisualisations as a communication tool, and then make it happen.There are lots of plans – perhaps to use this (The Bank) as a springboard to extend beyond our physical boundaries. Social media and collaborations with various other companies, people, and institutions are all on the cards.
It’s clear that what was at the edges of the city’s consciousness is now profiting from an economy based on the design, education and collaboration. Next month we’ll publish ground-breaking ideas from CPUT, about biomimicry as a basis for integrated, sustainable social development in the area, and what The Fringe plans to do with these suggestions. Contact Yehuda Raff to find out more about available space in The Fringe.