Jozanne Louw is a dynamic architect, Director at Roelof Rabe Argitekte and an avid sportswoman. It was a great honour to ask her 5 Questions.
Your company website describes you as a risk taker and “tirelessly devoted to her art and refuses to settle for anything less than extraordinary.” Could you elaborate on your approach to your work?
As a company, Roelof Rabe Argitekte promises dedication. We dedicate ourselves to the client’s needs and budget by honoring those in both the most innovative and practical manners possible. I was able to contribute and build into this vision as this is part of who I am. I am a hands-on, hard-working and thankfully so, creative soul. Which, in this case, turns out to be a pretty good combination!
Each project is a pioneer project. Each design warrants research and a fresh outlook – we draw from experience, but don’t rest on it for solutions nor inspiration. Our minimalist and logical layouts are brought to life by our desire to provide our clients with feasible and sensible creations that have pushed us to create afresh every time.
Roelof Rabe’s success is based on innovative design excellence, efficiency, time and meeting our clients’ needs. We aim to do this on both a personal and professional level and apply our diverse team to this wholeheartedly. My part in this is determined by the project and the client, and as I explain later, each project is taken on as one would prepare for and follow through on a major sporting event.
Being part of a dynamic architectural practice, I have the opportunity and responsibility of supporting a group of young and exceptionally talented designers. We combine long-standing experience and the bravery of the young and passionate and the result is always one that takes our breaths away!
Architecture is where art, design, engineering and function meet. What seduced you into pursuing a career in this field?
The seduction of architecture is formed by many misconceptions, and I for one, fell victim to those, albeit willingly.
I am a born explorer, dreamer, designer and a plan-maker and my childhood art creations were larger than life. From the age of 9, I spent most of my free time building tree houses in the neighborhood. Green spaces have always been where I flourish.
Fresh out of school, registering for a degree in architecture was the most organic choice. Becoming an architect was, however, not that straightforward for me and I really struggled through the brutal academic programme.
I was a well-balanced student and by no means the star of my class. My Architecture degree remains my toughest journey and my proudest accomplishment, even compared to parenthood or finishing the ABSA Cape Epic.
After qualifying, I entered the professional realm – all starry-eyed and believing that my beautiful buildings would change the world. But, as my career unfolds I am faced with an existential midlife crisis. I have come to realize that in order to be a successful architect, you are forced to fall within the typical commercial business model where your skills are used to turn your clients into millionaires. For a fee of course!
Simply put – architects get to dream up opportunities for an investor (be it commercial or for the single residential client who comes to us with his entire life savings) to ensure the funds invested in the project yield the right returns.
The philosophical side of the architectural heart will still hear us talk about the real impact we have on the lives of everyday people. It will remind us of the large responsibility of designing for the greater good of humanity that we have, but unfortunately, in this case, philosophy does not bring home the bacon.
Don’t get me wrong, the seduction is real and architecture must be a calling. I love what I do and it gives me great joy to forge life-changing relationships with our clients and their projects. The good news is, that if done properly, we can change at least the perception of the world.
Who and what are main influencers of your work and how do you ensure that you retain your own identity in your designs?
I found a home in Roelof Rabe Argitekte in the sense that we don’t promise a specific style or approach – that would be conforming. We believe that every design should fit our client and his particular needs like a well-tailored suit.
I obviously have preferences, but I try not to let those influence me when I am working with someone else’s dream.
The design process is organic in its origins: inspired by the client and their needs, we take to paper and pencil first. We deliberately avoid electronic media in this phase. Hand sketches ensure our thoughts being made visible, a better understanding of the spaces we design, a closer relationship with the concept, and create a basis to work from that has come naturally.
Some of our concepts are tested by the building of mass models which further promotes our hands-on approach. As I have mentioned, I have been creating spaces since a child, and the creation of the mass models is a high-light for me. It adds another dimension (pardon the pun) and appreciation for the space I am working on.
Finally, when our designs are processed into digital formats, we are certain that we have met our client’s needs, but also that we have been true to ourselves.
You are a multi-talented athlete including being an avid mountain biker. What influence does this aspect on your life have on your success and what principles of sport do you think you apply in other aspects of your life?
Responsibility, courage, teamwork, mental focus and persistence, humility, commitment and self-discipline are strongly reinforced by sport and these are personal characteristics that are valuable in many areas.
I am graciously gifted with many talents and art and architecture have always been a counter balance for my love for competitive sport. Much of my sporting success comes down to a deep and gifted gene pool, but talent and potential doesn’t own up if it isn’t fostered in the right environment. This pulls through in business, especially in a creative practice.
I made provincial teams for various forms of individual and team sports throughout my youth. As a student I was introduced to water polo, played a season of club soccer and another season of provincial touch rugby.
I love sport, but never quite managed to rise to the top at national level. The closest I got was in water polo during the 2005/2006 season when I committed to the Commonwealth squad but missed out on being selected for the final team to Melbourne.
Mountain biking came next and this is where I connected with Danie, my husband. We share a great love for the outdoors and we completed the 2011 ABSA Cape Epic together.
I have recently turned my attention to triathlons and more specifically cross or off-off road triathlons and was granted the opportunity to represent South Africa at the XTERRA World Championship Race in Maui, Hawaii on 28 October 2018.
I believe that the following analogies can be drawn between how work and sport are approached:
Keep your eye on the ball: In sport, the purpose is clear: scoring the goal. There is never a lack of clarity in a sports team. Likewise, businesses also need to plan and focus on the goal. The coach and captain need to work side by side to lead and motivate the team to achieve their collective goal.
The coach is never the one scoring the goals: I have benefited from being coached by more than 30 influential (and some very controversial) personalities: Coaches are a special breed indeed!
Behind every world-class athlete, there is always a committed coach, mentor or leader. The key though is that a really good coach never thinks that he has nothing to learn. Humility is key for the both the player and coach to win – and I believe it needs to be like this in business too. The boss and the “junior” need to learn from each other.
Choose the right captain: A good team captain, business manager or project leader brings the players together and motivates the team. Teamwork is inherent in sport and a good captain facilitates that against all odds.
Choose the right players for the game: Available time should not be the determining factor when choosing who will be working on a project. Unfortunately, often teams are defined by functional expertise, or space in their diaries, rather than by picking the individuals with the inherent strengths to collaboratively work together to achieve the ‘win’ today.
Debriefing is good: Performance feedback in sport is instant. You either win or you don’t. And sometimes brutal. We are often too sensitive to give or receive commentary or criticism of our work, but we believe that we need to build each other up and learn from each other. And the only way to do this is to talk, to debrief. To communicate. Feedback is good when given with good intent. The same applies to feedback from our clients, who specifically need to be heard in order to feel that our service satisfies their needs.
What do you believe are the actions we should be taking to promote and achieve transformation in the real estate industry?
Transformation is a very broad concept, and I have two answers:
Firstly, in the general BEE context my philosophy is that our efforts towards transforming the architectural profession should be employed in such a way that the skill and experience be retained and enhanced towards building a transformed profession which will meet the needs of a human(e)ly built environment in our country. Practically, it calls for enhanced support for education and skills development.
Secondly and perhaps more importantly for the real estate industry is the commitment to transforming environments to value and accommodate diversity.
Copyright © 2018 by Natalie du Preez.
This interview was conceptualised, conducted and authored by Natalie du Preez and is original content, which is property of the author, all rights reserved. This article or any portion thereof may not be copied, shared or reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the owner.