Looking for South African Architectural Design
Architecture design is an ongoing process where architects attempt to stay ahead of the market in creating new and innovative buildings for developers. As with many things, however, even architecture design is sometimes forced to bow to fashions and fads. The problem arises, however, when these fads start dominating common sense and forcing architects to work counter to what they know to be good architectural design.
In South Africa this is very obvious in the so-called ‘Boere Toskaans’ movement of the past few years. In the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg, architects have been asked by home owners and developers to design buildings in the Tuscan architectural style. Terracota-coloured homes have been springing up all over both cities as more developers follow this fad. But architects are calling for more local architectural designs that employ local materials and that are suited to local conditions.
Academics are concerned that the ‘Boere Toskaans’ architectural movement may have a detrimental effect on the cultural identity of South Africa. Research has indicated movements like these in architectural design are part of a search for cultural identity that is very common in post-colonial countries. The argument, however, is that South Africa has more than enough local history, culture and resources that borrowing from European culture is not necessary.
While inspired by colonialism, the Cape Dutch, Georgian and Transvaal regionalism were adapted to the local climate and local materials. Originally European in origin, these styles have become nearly synonymous with South African architectural design. Many modern architects are now looking to South Africa’s roots to find inspiration for new architectural designs. Many architects have suggested exciting developments in new architectural design using traditional South African style with local materials.
The problem that many architects face, however, is selling this local architectural design to the people. The emerging black middle class are quick to follow the fashions of the international arena to position themselves as citizens of the world. But this position comes at the cost of their and South Africa’s cultural identity. People follow fashions and the current fashion of Tuscan architectural design has taken the South African market by storm.
The challenge is to find a South African identity in architectural design. South Africa has enough cultural history to create its own unique architectural style. It is time to leave the European ideals behind and to focus on a styles and architecture that can be called proudly South African.
About the Author