Friday, 15 November 2013

We highlight some of the key urban regeneration projects transforming Johannesburg's Maboneng Precinct, including Craftsmen's Ship (pictured) on 260 Main Street, an industrial building soon to turned into residential and retail spaces, with a façade by artist Stephen Hobbs

Jonathan Liebmann is one of those born-entrepreneur types you read about in business magazines; the sort who takes on seven paper rounds at 12 and has a series of business adventures and misadventures before finding an all-consuming commercial calling. For Liebmann, after running a chain of laundromats and a mobile coffee maker, that calling was real-estate development.

Born in Johannesburg, the son of an interior designer mother and banker/artist father, Liebmann first developed a number of flats when he was just 18. But the light-bulb moment came when he developed an old factory into an apartment for himself and imagined a new, profitable life for Joburg's stockpile of empty industrial buildings.

In 2008 he formed Propertuity, bought the old offices and warehouses of a construction company east of the inner city and recruited local architect Enrico Daffonchio to help him turn the buildings into a buzzy hub that would draw the city's creative types.

Having studied the form in creative quarters from São Paulo's Vila Madalena to London's Shoreditch, Liebmann knew he needed art heavyweights as anchor tenants. Artist William Kentridge and photographer Mikhael Subotzky signed up for studio space and soon the development, Arts on Main, was fully tenanted. It opened in 2009 with galleries, a restaurant and design stores.

After its success, Liebmann decided he was not just a property developer but rather a 'community developer', and he would create a new neighbourhood that would tempt young professionals, black and white, out of their gated communities. In 2010, he opened Main Street Life, a 1970s warehouse-turned-apartment building that also houses an independent cinema and boutique hotel. And last year, he added The Main Change office development, including the inevitable co-working space for start-ups and freelancers.

Liebmann's operation now owns 35 buildings spread across a square-kilometre area he has christened the Maboneng Precinct. All of this has been done without government assistance, although Propertuity has just started a partnership with the Johannesburg Development Agency to upgrade the pavements. Liebmann remains a de facto mayor of Maboneng, a benevolent landlord and social architect, but he denies control-freakery and utopian inflexibility. 'I definitely have a mission to turn Maboneng into the best neighbourhood in the world, but I am very flexible in the way it plays out.'


From Waste to Wear: ECONYL® recycled nylon is cleaning up our seas | The Ethical Fashion Source

From Waste to Wear: ECONYL® recycled nylon is cleaning up our seas | The Ethical Fashion Source

Paul Smith takes us on a tour of his recreated HQ at London's Design Museum design / 14 Nov 2013 / By Katrina Israel

The creative clutter that makes up Sir Paul Smith's everyday existence has been decamped into a new exhibition titled 'Hello, My Name is Paul Smith' at London's Design Museum. The inspirational showcase includes a replica of the designer's famed Covent Garden office pictured here
'The stuff that refines you', and taking one look around Sir Paul Smith's new exhibition at London's Design Museum, you get the sense that the designer is similarly inspired. The creative clutter that makes up Smith's everyday existence has been decamped into the showcase 'Hello, My Name is Paul Smith'.

Just don't call it a retrospective. 'It's absolutely not a retrospective,' he insists, heading a tour around the exhibit, his renowned wit and curiousity leading the way, and adding with a smile 'the show comes from the heart, not from the wallet'. The installation instead celebrates the stuff of his life's work, much of which has fuelled his design process and vice versa, rather than a plotted timeline of collections and career successes.

And while many designers crave a clean, sterilised space in order to sustain their creativity, Smith is legendarily quite the opposite. A trait that his fans have well and truly caught onto, to the extend that his former Kean street London office is famously bursting at the seams with curios to the point where it's almost a personal museum. 'The post is fantastic!' Smith continues, 'I just had five huge cartons of spinning tops delivered from Italy, which just said: "I know Paul Smith likes things".' Of course, as an accomplished collector he also has an impressive portfolio of art and retail conquests, but it's the little things (toy robots, buttons, Rolleiflex cameras) that fuel his creativity, and they're almost all decamped here, including 70,000 buttons.


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