From Constantia wineries to Kramats, it was a gentle but wonderful start

View from Beau Constania tasting room

I had a gentle and much appreciated start to my explorations as I was met at Cape Town airport by architect and teacher Kevin Fellingham and his wife, curator Winnie Sze who whisked me off to Beau Constantia, a beautiful winery overlooking False Bay. I can think of no better way to get over jet lag than to have a glass of delicious South African white in hand, appreciating architecture in good company. We sat in the tasting room a glass box atop one of a series of pavilions designed by Jon Jacobson that nestle into the hillside amongst the vineyards. The siting of the pavilions, including a converted shipping container took advantage of the topography, creating a synergy between landscape and buildings. Windows framed views into the surrounding landscape – even the toilet pavilion (below) had a spectacular view over the valley with Stellenbosch in the far distance.

We then went on to Klein Constantia, yes, another winery, but at this one it was pure archi-appreciation. Gawie Fagan designed a cellar in 1986 just up the hill from the original Cape Dutch homestead. The building greets you with a wide upward-sloping entrance and gently lures you through a deep archway door and along a solidly built corridor with light filtering down the stepped, side-wall. Lovely details are everywhere – slots in the wall glimpse to a parallel space now a shop, a flagstone in the tiled floor denotes a threshold into a top lit octagon space, and is a sign to look up and glimpse Table Mountain through a specially placed window high in the wall ahead. The simple form of the building can be appreciated when standing in the working yard to the back, with a parred-back facade. It feels like a farm building that has been given just enough intention to feel like architecture.

Down the hill sits the Kramta (Muslim shrines that mark the graves of Holy Men) of Sheik Abdurachman Matebe Shah who was one of the three teachers who brought Islam to southern Africa in the seventeenth century. The more magical Kramat however was that of Sayed Mahmud, 10 minutes further along the road in Groot Constantia designed by Frank Flemming (a partner of Herbert Baker) with gardens and a washing block recently added by Gawie and Gwen Fagan. The whole place has an atmosphere of calm and peace – the shrine located at the vista of a gentle slope that encourages slow movement towards it. The washing building is reached via a simple but subtly joyous concrete pergola covered in vines. The long, facing wall of the washrooms, is adorned with a beautiful mosaic and the inside reveals one of the most serene spaces I have entered in a long time.

With Blouin Artinfo on ‘Inside Heatherwick Studio’ exhibition (2015)

BLOUIN ARTINFO caught up with curator Kate Goodwin to discuss the finer points of Heatherwick Studio’s prolific and varied output, comparative perspectives on the British and Hong Kong design scenes, and the explosive growth in Asia’s emerging metropolises.

Thomas Heatherwick

What do you think distinguishes the creative process of Thomas Heatherwick and his studio? What is it that allows the studio to tackle such a wide range of project briefs and challenges both efficiently and innovatively?

The studio is not restricted by conventions or traditional boundaries: indeed, in many cases, it actively seeks to challenge them and offer new alternatives. They work across many disciplines and approach projects in a similar way, regardless of scale or typology. They critically analyze a brief, questioning the assumptions, and in some cases, initiated projects themselves.

They seek to find an essential idea or problem to solve, and do so in an inventive and original way, uniting the idea with a sculptural and sensual form. They also constantly question and re-evaluate the key idea behind a project, and their response is strong enough to inform and drive a project — an approach that assures they are constantly innovating.
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Photo © PMQ and Heatherwick Studio

Time Out: Curator Tour Sensing Spaces Royal Academy of Arts 2014

For the duration of Sensing Spaces, you won’t recognise the Royal Academy. Okay, so the grand Palladian exterior on Piccadilly will look as impressive as ever, but inside, a team of seven architects are transforming the galleries of Burlington House beyond all recognition.

The big aim of Sensing Spaces is to change the way the city thinks about and engages with architecture. At the show’s core is a series of space-changing installations – think bamboo pyramids that secrete incense, a disorientating maze of mirrors and a kaleidoscope-coloured tunnel that shifts shape as visitors interact with it.

Check out the video above for a taste of what’s in store when the show opens next year, and check back soon for more images, exclusive video content and information on how you can get involved with one of the most exciting shows of 2014.

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Sensing Spaces: Meet the architects: Sofia von Ellrichshausen and Mauricio Pezo 2013

Spending some time with the Chilean architects who ‘consider’ rather than ‘design’. 

Early this year I had the pleasure of spending five days with Sofia von Ellrichshausen and Mauricio Pezo (known simply as Pezo); staying in the house they designed, and talking almost non-stop about architecture and what they might do for this exhibition. It was very special witnessing how they work together. They would sit close, engaged in an intense discussion that would move quickly, building on one another’s ideas, while also questioning their own propositions. As they talked through ideas it was Pezo who would have a pen in hand, drawing as they talked.

I could see how their ethos and approach to architecture was reflected in their buildings. Together they bring an innate understanding of how people will respond and feel in a space and marry it with an absolute belief in an aesthetically pure architecture.

I was really struck by how coherent and certain their buildings are. Their own house and studio, Casa Cien, stands upright – almost like a small monument – in a suburb, nestled into the foothills on edge of the industrial town of Concepción. A plinth with tower atop, it is a bold object that is starkly different from all the houses that surround it and is in no way apologetic about the fact.

I asked them how those in the neighbourhood had responded when it was built. I gather people were rather perplexed and unsure to start with, but it has become a landmark and point of curiosity and interest that seems to be making its way into people’s hearts.

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