Staying on top of today’s architectural trends is so much more than a fashion statement. It is a commitment to a more sustainable – and more profitable – way of running a modern estate

In many parts of the world, architectural design trends are not only changing the way in which people live, but helping to build a more sustainable future. To stay modern and relevant, it is vital that South African estates realise that choosing to be old fashioned could well be a financial faux pas.

Guidelines ensure quality, consistency

Most, if not all, estates provide homeowners with a set of prescribed architectural guidelines that govern certain design elements, such as heights, roofs, floor area ratios etc. These guidelines give homeowners the freedom of choice in their home design, while at the same time protecting the environment and safeguarding the overall character and aesthetic appeal of the estate.

Tommy Joyce, Managing Partner at Studiovision Architecture & Design, says that they try not to view these guidelines as restrictive, but rather “as an opportunity for individual expression whilst adding value to existing and future homes on the estate”. He adds: “This becomes particularly evident once the estate has been built up and there’s a coherent theme running through the estate.”

He goes on to explain the typical architectural process at an estate: “We have to take a number of elements and stakeholders into account when building someone their dream home, including the site (climate, context and position), the client’s brief and the parameters of the area in which we are working. After that we view problems as opportunities and challenges as chances to create something beautiful. Once a concept is in place, it will be presented to the members of the homeowners’ association design review panel, and after receiving their approval, submission to local authority can take place.”

For Tommy, the key to good design is simple: “Attention to detail in every aspect of the home – outside and in!”

Embracing new trends

Many of the estates in South Africa currently under development were planned in the early 2000s, which means that some of the architectural guidelines provided to architects today are 16 years old! Back then, green design and the philosophy of modern architecture were still far-off concepts in South Africa. “The lack of transformation or evolution in architectural design can be seen in these estates,” comments Wouter Erasmus, Director at Arte Architects. “And if an estate hasn’t transformed its architectural guidelines, it makes it very difficult for architects to design within the green envelope,” he adds.

In modern architectural design, sustainability concerns – water conservation, electricity savings and heat control – are seen as more of a priority. “Combined with simplicity in architecture, this is creating a minimalistic end result, which forms the basis of new architectural designs,” he says.

“Implementing energy efficient components and designing self-sustained buildings have become very popular, and even mandated in some estates,” adds Tommy. New building techniques and more advanced building materials also need to be considered. “Clients are much more mindful of quality design, so they are expecting more from their designers and architects,” he says. “Building costs are also continuously increasing so designers need to be creative in finding methods of keeping down costs while not sacrificing on the quality of materials or workmanship.”

Modern architecture – a lucrative opportunity

“The design review committees of residential estates need to become more open and embrace new ideas and architectural concepts in order to adapt and adjust the guidelines that were written all those years ago,” says Erasmus. Oftentimes, these committees are also made up of individuals outside the architectural field, and thus not always informed of the latest trends, materials and bylaws shaping the industry.

He acknowledges that some committees are starting to express their willingness to update their restrictive clauses in their guidelines, but progress is slow and many estates are still lagging behind. This is, in part, due to the global financial crisis of 2008, after which developers extended the building period for homeowners. Thus the architectural guidelines developed for that original deadline were only implemented a few years later, ignoring the changing status quo in architectural design. Of course, certain guidelines remain relevant, such as those that protect and conserve the natural environment.

“It really is in these estates’ best interest to go into dialogue with the leading architects on the estates and let them educate the board members on the newest architectural trends and why they should accept them: Not only is it beneficial for the property market value, but it will make bond facilitation easier!”

Already, Erasmus says that banks are more reluctant to grant financial support towards more traditional designs. “Banks seem to be much more willing to embrace modern or conceptual architecture – rather than more traditional styles – as they can expect a more secure return on their future investment,” he says.

It certainly seems to be a very complicated issue and body corporates and homeowners’ associations are undoubtedly in a tough position, trying to strike a balance between the needs of the homeowners, the bold ideas of the architects, and the environmental concerns of the surroundings. That being said, it is possible to embrace contemporary trends without losing the lessons of the past, and in so doing, build a residential estate that is highly attractive to the most discerning modern investor.

Top 5 architectural trends right now

1. Minimalism matter most

Less is most definitely more in contemporary architecture, with a number of current trends embodying this overarching theme.

2. Open to new ideas

Open-plan living has become the preference of today’s homeowners. One kitchen/dining/living area brings the family together, enabling cooking, homework, eating and relaxing to take place in a shared space as opposed to the isolating rooms of the past. Nowadays rooms are also more functional and flexible, designed to transform into different areas without the need for costly renovations.

3. More light is right

Large windows dominate modern home design, which not only brings more natural light inside, but blurs the boundary between indoors/outdoors, again creating the illusion of more space.

4. Gone green

Energy efficiency and sustainable design are no longer buzz words, but distinct features of contemporary design. With electricity and water supply being long-term concerns for South Africans, architects are incorporating renewable energy sources and water conservation methods into every plan.

Green building materials are also becoming increasingly popular with sustainable and/or locally sourced materials being used, not just as fashionable features, but an integral part of modern home design. Technical advances in building materials will also see ancient building methods re-imagined, for example, cross-laminated timber panels, which are stronger and more fire-resistant than traditional wood.

5. High-tech houses

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in household management – from programmable lighting, integrated entertainment systems, automated sprinklers and smart security systems, all connected and managed through one’s tablet or smart phone.

“Every great architect is – necessarily – a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.”

Frank Lloyd Wright

iconic American architect

A passion for picturesque precision

Live the Lifestyle sat down with Tommy Joyce, Managing Partner of Studiovision, to find out a little more about the company’s approach to design, and experience creating some of Pinnacle Point’s most beautiful homes.

LTL: Please tell us a little about Studiovision – what led you and your business partner, Nico Wessels to start the company?

TJ: Love and passion for the built environment – we have a distinct vision for the architecture we practice and we wanted to share it!

LTL: Where do you do most of your work?

TJ: Mostly in the Garden Route, but we’ve worked throughout South Africa and abroad as well.

LTL: What do you enjoy most about designing homes in an estate like Pinnacle Point?

TJ: The first home we designed in 2006 sold for a record price at the time. Since then my passion for Pinnacle Point has only grown. We’ve worked in many of the top private estates in the country and the natural beauty of Pinnacle Point amazes me every time I’m here. The views of the white-washed ocean crashing into the magnificent cliffs are unparalleled!

LTL: What sets Studiovision apart from other architectural practices? 

TJ: Our work has been recognised locally and internationally, and our projects have featured in numerous lifestyle design magazines, TV shows and leading architectural websites. Our approach is to design bespoke investment homes that experience immediate value growth once completed.

LTL: Do your homes have a signature look? 

TJ: Yes, our homes are easily distinguished – the lines are bold and clean, sophisticated and timeless.

LTL: What is your vision for the future of the business? 

TJ: We like keeping things simple in a world where things easily become complicated. Our vision is to keep offering personalised, professional service, and continue designing buildings that are attractive while being practical and comfortable to live in.

All images in this article have bee supplied by StudioVision Architects.