Honest and beautiful designs

Stellenbosch architect Rick Stander knew when he was six years old what he wanted to be one day. With his wife, the well-known artist Marié, and two artistic sons, Luke and Simon, they’re a creative bunch with an abundance of innovative ideas.

At the Robertson Small Hotel, these bedroom suites make for a quirky experience: you can fall out of bed and into the pool after a rough night. The folding shutters offer total privacy.

MvW: What inspires your designs?

RS: Music. I listen to it all the time. In my car, at the office, at home. Music works on the same principle as architecture. Verses are joined by choruses, which act as bridges. In architecture spaces are connected by links. And when you connect them, you can create the desired mood and scale, both of which are important components of architecture. 

MvW: What was the proudest moment in your career?

RS: I am proud of every project. To see my finished work, after spending a year or two on an assignment, overrides the stress of getting to the final stage. I am fortunate to work in some of South Africa’s most beautiful locations, including Leopard’s Creek, Bakoven, Stellenbosch, the Kalahari. These settings make my work even more thrilling. 

The grand old Victorian building that houses the Robertson Small Hotel was renovated to accommodate reception, a bar and restaurant as well as three bedrooms.

MvW: What differentiates your designs from others?

RS: I’m a good listener and will try to understand my client before I start to design. It’s no use creating a contemporary building for a conservative, old-school client. As architects, it is our job to listen and to bring some sort of order to a client’s basic ideas and needs.

When I am faced with an assignment, I ask the client to get into the car and take me to a building they really like. It gives me an idea of their taste. I want to continue designing honest, beautiful buildings that blend with the environment.

MvW: When did you realise that architecture is your calling?

RS: Actually, I think my calling is being a guitarist in a jazz, blues and fusion band. I do that as a hobby, but unfortunately we have to make a decent living. At six I used to draw my childhood house and I always tried to improve on it.

MvW: Have you ever been your own client?

RS: Recently, I bought a thatched cottage in McGregor which I’m currently renovating into a weekend getaway. It is absolutely wonderful to be your own client because you can do as you please. I’ve learnt how expensive it is to build, though, and now I have more sympathy with my clients.

MvW: What are your biggest challenges as an architect?

RS: Many clients believe they are interior designers or architects. You don’t like to criticise their taste, so dealing with them can be very frustrating. On the other hand, I often work with the same clients again and again because they know what I am ca­pable of. These projects always work out the best. 

Rick is known for using a range of textures in his designs. Wooden cladding breaks up a potentially monotonous facade.