Architecture in South Africa - JK Designs

South African Architects Talk South African Architecture

New Trends in South African Architecture

Borrowed from the Netherlands, the iconic Cape Dutch dwellings with their characteristic ornate gables, thatched roofs and whitewashed walls, will always be associated with South Africa. However, its appeal has spread to other wine-growing regions, notably New Zealand and Western Australia. Many other local buildings embrace the features of early Roman and Greek architecture, combined with the styles of indigenous people and the many immigrant nations to which the country owes its exceptional diversity. Nevertheless, local designers remain open to new trends in the industry, and some are setting a few of their own.

Architecture in South Africa - JK Designs

The Form and Shape of it all

While emerging new designs may vary widely, allowing plenty of scope for individual expression, they tend to share one common feature. Their overall focus is more on functional form and more efficient use of space than on ornate facades and decorative adornments that serve no practical purpose. Visually, modern architecture embraces the principles of minimalism, expressing them through the medium of glass, metal and reinforced concrete. The resulting structures are characterised by sleek, horizontal and vertical lines derived from predominately rectangular shapes and flat roofs.


The past decade has seen an escalation of concerns regarding dwindling natural resources and the planet’s growing carbon footprint. Today’s designs are addressing these issues in two ways. Firstly, new builds frequently incorporate recycled materials, such as timber, aluminium and glass. This more conservative approach adopted in modern architecture helps conserve resources and minimise the energy required for mining and processing new raw materials. 

Sustainability in Architecture

Repurposing old buildings is perhaps the ultimate form of recycling, allowing a designer to leave much of the original structure in place while reducing material costs. The iconic Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art on Cape Town’s Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a classic South African example. This landmark architecture project utilised the shell of a defunct grain silo, adding concrete, steel and glass superstructure to provide a hotel, restaurant and eighty gallery spaces.


The second approach focuses on creating more energy-efficient structures. For example, many modern buildings now feature markedly larger windows to admit more ambient light and reduce dependence on artificial lighting. Double glazing and improved wall and ceiling insulation also limit heating requirements. In parallel, technical innovations such as photovoltaic glass, tiles, and even paint, are already waiting in the wings to replace the more obtrusive solar panels. 


Smart buildings feature prominently in modern architecture, leveraging the internet of things and digital technology to manage aspects such as security and climate control requirements. Nevertheless, many designers aspire to balance these features of high-tech living with more natural settings. The more restrictive, compartmentalised structures have given way to spacious open-plan designs, in which the liberal use of greenery in the indoor space blends seamlessly with patios and the garden beyond. 


Elsewhere in the world, the concept of vertical forests is spreading. Balconies on high-rise buildings provide the growing areas for trees and shrubs that produce oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide, create humidity, and provide green space in a concrete jungle. South African architecture firms are planning to follow suit. 


The nature of residential and commercial buildings is changing, and few companies are more experienced or better equipped to meet the challenges involved than JK Designs. If you’re ready for a change, why not view some of our current accomplishments and learn more about our unique design process?

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