FUTURE CAPE TOWN | Photo Essay: Why city street level matters

“Urban design can promote active and vibrant street life but it can also threaten it”


Freelance street photographer David van der Want observes the streets of Cape Town and communicates something about the places and spaces people use.

Future Cape Town Support Us Logo

Public space is essential to urban design. The ground floor facilitates movement, commerce, democracy, creativity and innovation. David van der Want’s photography captures the death of the street level. Spaces made to promote active-use, have become exclusive with roll-up doors and empty storefronts. This imagery has opened up the city at eye level and makes awareness of the need to reassert the value of social, civic and economic encounters at this level.

We are asking how people use streets and space and how we can begin designing for this.


A young man stands alone next to a bus stop on Long Street. People busily go about their lives around him.


At St. George’s Mall, a woman wearing a red blouse decorated with white hearts smokes in front of two doors. Men are reflected in the marble face of the building at her back.

Visit his website


A man sits on the kerb with his back to a crowd on Adderley Street.


A man stands in front of a billboard outside Cape Town station.


Two girls sit in front of a poster of a model on the Woolworths building.


On Hans Strijdom drive, a man walks in the distance framed by a curved passage. A poster to the right shows a boy taking a photograph.


Two women laugh with a man on the street corner.


On Kloof Street, a young man takes a photograph in front of signs that read “Don’t be chicken”.


Seen on Hans strijdom drive, a man dressed in black and white walks past the Investec building’s window where his reflection is superimposed on a zebra.


A young woman hurries out of a revolving door on Hans Strijdom drive.


On Bree Street, a biker sits astride his bike surrounded by blue.


On Loop street, a group of men attend to a broken down car whilst two lie on the ground.