Bespoke, detailed designs

Over the past 15 years Wynand Wilsenach Architects has worked on many interesting projects in and around Stellenbosch and will continue to do so. Marguerite Van Wyk spoke to Wynand about the latest trends in architecture, the challenges of the trade and why he loves his craft.

At this Stellenbosch home, materials are layered to guide the progression from semi-public court to private courtyard

MvW: What are the current trends in architecture?

WW: Minimalism and being green, as well as accessories like metal and steelwork and black bathroom taps. We do not, however, follow fashion trends because they have a short life. Designing and building green, energy-efficient architecture is perhaps the only trend worth supporting, but there are so many mistakes architects have made by using too much technology to achieve a green home. Our philosophy is to insulate a house well and this includes double glazing, insulated walls and floors, super-insulated roofs, the right overhangs and a careful study of the movement of the sun. I try and incorporate as little technology as possible.

Perhaps the most important part of building ‘green’ is a timeless design that will weather well, needs little maintenance and will only get more attractive over time, so that what you have created doesn’t need constant attention or to be flattened or rebuilt. This will ensure the planet’s resources are well used.

MVW: Why do you love your craft?

Wynand Wilsenach: It is all about fresh ideas and having fun with the client. 

For this home overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Wynand Wilsenach Architects used hardwood and stainless steel to evoke the feel of a super yacht.

MvW: What differentiates your work from that of other architects?

WW: We pride ourselves on designing bespoke, highly detailed and well-finished projects. We deal with all the internal design detailing and often try new and inventive finishes and textures. Our work is never pretentious. We don’t try to impress; we just want to design a great and comfortable home. Our aim is to create well-defined, comfortable spaces and to stay clear of areas that are nondescript or open-planned. A great amount of time is spent in consultation with clients because the house is not ours. Although we do have a lot of fun creating it, it should ultimately enrich the lives of our clients. 

MvW: What inspires you?

WW: I enjoy seeing how people use the spaces we have created with their friends and family. It is also inspiring to see how much joy the finished product can bring to everybody involved in the design process.

MvW: If you had carte blanche, what would you design?

WW: I prefer to work within constraints because then creativity can be much better harnessed. 

in the formal lounge acoustic ceilings and double glazing create an oasis of calm; a raised rooflight allows natural light to flood into the barn-style living room.

MvW: What was the most satisfying project in your career?

WW: Many moons ago I designed a house for the advertising guru, Brian Searle-Tripp, in Simon’s Town. It was a very masculine, factory-style house. Sadly though, it has been changed (for better or worse) by successive owners who wanted to put their own mark on it.

MvW: What alternative career would you have chosen had it not been architecture?

WW: Probably something in the manufacturing industry where one needs a good eye for detail, or I would have been a sculptor. 

MvW: What are the biggest challenges for an architect?

WW: Architects should strive to design (and construct) buildings that will last from an aesthetic and qualitative point of view. Thereafter, how they dress up the house or express the architecture must always serve this fundamental principle. In the past couple of years we have started doing alterations and additions to some of our earlier work and it is always great to see that if you build something well, it is very easy to maintain and enlarge or alter without affecting the overall character. 

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