I’m about to embark on an exciting adventure to South Africa. The trip presented itself as a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. In this case, it was one of those moments when you need to quickly decide whether you’re ‘in or out’, so I grabbed my suitcase, bought a special safari hat, and now I’m on my way!
Although it’s important to use these adventures and respites to take a break from your work and daily routine, I can’t help but bring my work along. As you know, because it’s in my DNA , regardless of where I am, or what I’m doing, I’m continuously seeking out ideas for design.
I’m taking this wonderful opportunity to learn about new cultures, artisans and architecture. Three ingredients, I feel are key to fresh, stellar design. This blog is the first of a series about my adventure. I hope, through this journal, you’ll share and enjoy the trip as much as I do.
Cultures around the world, teach us to be more considerate and understanding. Seek to understand has always been a mantra of mine. I feel this in my relationships with people but also with design. If I can, as a designer, understand the culture or origins of a my client, it provides a more honest approach to the overall design, which ultimately allows the authenticity of that particular culture to shine through.
Today, people of many cultures are finding themselves relocating to new apartments and homes in different corners of the world. Regardless of where their physical dwelling may be, people want to ‘feel at home’. For me one of the keys to success means incorporating some of the aspects of their culture into their new dwelling.
For example, Asian clients like to duplicate the feeling of their minimalist styled homes with more modern influences. Conversely, Middle Eastern clients are most at home with more luxurious attributes such as velvet fabrics and heavier furniture set in more opulent environments.
This particular trip will take me to South Africa — specifically; Cape Town and Botswana. Two countries I’ve yearned to learn more about. Cape Town is a peninsula, harbor town boasting beautiful mountains, greenery and, of course, the sea. Botswana is a landlocked country which offers wild open plains where I’m expecting to experience my first safari. These two countries, while very different, are chocked full of design influences. Learning more about these cultures will expand my knowledge and lend me the opportunity to incorporate new components into my design.
With any adventure there is an element of exploration. The desire to explore is identifiable in great design work. Simply, if one doesn’t venture out and expand their horizons, there is a limited well of resources to pull from when it comes to providing a client with a robust end result.
Exploration, takes us out of our normal routine and encourages us to enjoy new experiences. One of the things I love to explore and discover are new types of architecture and ways to incorporate them into design. I have a knack for identifying how to spot great architectural design aspects whether on safari or in the busiest cities of the world. Architectural aspects are always a consideration in design. In Cape Town, for instance, I see the use of the natural landscape of the sea and rich mountain ranges lend themselves to open floor plan designs and magnificent banks of windows to appreciate the beautiful backdrop.
Conversely, Botswana, being much more rustic and safari-centric, allows for specific components from the local architecture to be used as elements in particular design. The idea is to really open your eyes and your mind to see things outside of the box. While we may not want to use specific materials that create Botswana-styled buildings such as mud or straw, using the texture, shape or color may lend itself to a well designed, sensory experience.
Whether I’m at a street fair here in the states or a market in a foreign land, there are always a plethora of local artisans. These incredibly talented local craftsmen have been making one-of-a-kind pieces in the same manner as their ancestors. Each item provides a sense of its familiar origin while offering the world a little piece of somewhere exotic.
In design, while visiting a marketplace, it may be the texture of the item or perhaps the color that catches my eye. I make copious journal notes, sketches and take pictures tucking them away as part of my design arsenal. While in Cape Town I’m hoping to visit the local markets to experience their artisan offerings and really feel the beauty of the country. There are so many, I hope I have enough time to see and appreciate it all.