Meet 2020’s 1.618 Judges: Henk Marais

We are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the winner of 2020’s PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative. In the meantime, we have been introducing you to our esteemed judges, and next up is Henk Marais, Founder and Director of Cape Town-based architecture firm, Connect Architects.

Henk is a new judge this year, but, with over two decades of experience and as an exemplary proponent for excellence in architecture, he is a perfect addition to the 1.618 Education Initiative judging panel.

We chatted to Henk about the initiative and about what makes a great architect.

Why do you think an initiative like the 1.618 Education Initiative is important?

I believe an initiative like this is so important because it allows students to step out of the academic world into a highly practical environment. It teaches students to, firstly, interpret a brief, which in practice is a highly important communication of the client’s expectations. Working according to a brief and specific site also requires the students’ designs to be practical, not merely theoretical. Students have to base their responses on the site, the tenants, the uses, and specific materials, which is what you have to do in practice. So, this competition is not just another theorical exercise for them.

How to you feel about having been asked to be a judge for the 1.618 Education Initiative?

For me, being invited to judge this competition is an honour. I was a student once too and being part of this initiative, I feel like I get to give back a little. I am also looking forward to learning from the students, seeing the new, fresh ideas that are out there and trying to contribute to that from my side.

As a highly experienced professional in the field of architecture, what do you think makes for a good architect?

An architect should have the ability to be practical but also really focused on detail-oriented and solution-driven design. To me, client focus is also key. One of the reasons why I become an architect is for the interaction with clients. I think it is important to strike a balance between what the client wants and your professional expertise as an architect.

You mention balance. That ties in quite nicely with the theme of this year’s 1.618 Initiative, ‘The Pursuit of Balance’.

Absolutely. ‘The Pursuit of Balance’ speaks to how I believe architecture should be. It’s always a balance between different elements. For instance, between architecture and design. In terms of budget, detailing, finishing—every aspect of a project needs to be balanced.

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