Nathaniel Wakefield joined us as a judge in 2021 and is a director at Batley Partners Architecture & Design Consultants (Pty) Ltd – a design-focused architecture and interior design consultancy based in Johannesburg. He also helped us to design the 2022 brief for the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative.
Nathaniel, tell us more about your inspiration for a real-world solution to a real-world problem.
The 2021 winner of this competition hailed from Nelson Mandela University, so we chose a site in the Kouga region [each year, we choose a site based on where the winning institution is located]. For this reason, my brief for the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative centred around finding a real-world solution to the real-world lack of housing problem for workers in the area. This solution had to be a workable, adaptable and modular model for use elsewhere, where workers could live close to work and avoid spending exorbitant sums of money on transport. By reducing travel time from place of employment to home, workers are able to spend more time with their families, promoting a better quality of family life.
Students are in touch with the latest technology and everything at the forefront of design. These innovations could enhance a project like this. As designers, we are not only designing just houses – we are designing places for people to live and interact. We must provide the correct accommodation and offer the right solution. People need dignity and homes that they can live in and have a sense of pride!
The aim is to create a ‘blueprint’ of an adaptive, modular design and layout that could be implemented elsewhere in the country and adapted to suit the various conditions, whilst taking the core of human interaction and associated relationships into account.
Why is PG Bison’s 30 years of sponsoring the 1.618 Education Initiative important?
PG Bison’s sponsorship of this initiative for the past 30 years speaks to the company’s longevity within the industry.
Architecture, like fashion, can be timeless, so it’s good to see that after 30 years, PG Bison has evolved as a brand and provided new products and technologies implemented, based on the outcomes of previous competitions, thus also gaining a deeper understanding of what the industry needs. This longevity in the industry has purely come about because of the evolution of products and design, yet retaining its core vision and ideas.
Why should a student take part in this competition?
As a first-time judge in 2021, it was enlightening to see what students submitted and their overall potential.
Students can feel completely detached from what’s happening in the industry while studying, so this is an excellent way to get a better understanding of what to expect when having to interpret a brief from a client and develop a proposal accordingly.
When you are a recipient of an award in a competition like this one, it shows future employers that you have more than just a natural talent for design. It shows that you can think through challenges, understand the brief and interpret the scope, by using all the fundamental teachings provided at tertiary institutions like ergonomics, proportion, scale, rhythm, etc.
It also helps companies like PG Bison to understand what future generations of architectural professionals will need by providing insight into new product development and innovation to “future-proof” the PG Bison brand.
What advice do you have for future architects?
Coming from a suburb like Mitchell’s Plain on the Cape Flats and moving to Johannesburg, where I now live and am part of an established practice, has made me always want people to grow, learn and prosper. I am a firm believer that as I rise, I need to bring others up with me.
The best advice I ever received was when I was doing my in-service training back in Cape Town – I got told to absorb as much information and ideas as possible. Get stuck into problem solving and assist in providing solutions. There are so many avenues that an Architectural professional could become successful in.
Keep learning and try to understand what’s happening internationally – you can apply all of those tried and tested ideas and concepts from abroad and bring them to South Africa. But, be mindful of the local conditions and limitations. There’s also no need to let those limitations hold you back, though.
South African’s are nation of resilient and innovative creators. The saying “A boer maak ‘n plan” is unique to South Africa.
Be creative, but keep in mind that you are designing spaces and places for people. The social interaction between people accompanied with the functionality of a building or space, will always be a success.
Finding your part in your architectural journey is crucial – discover your niche and hone it according to your passion.