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Friday Nov 23, 2012

"New Paradigms" for sustainable property

While design and construction are part of architect Richard Stretton's job description, building interest in energy-efficient and environmentally friendly structures is where his real passion lies.

Moyo at uShaka Beach is South Africa's first building on a pier.

Stretton, one of the architects who presented papers at the KwaZulu-Natal Institute for Architecture-hosted architecture conference "New Paradigms" at the Docklands Hotel recently, spoke to the Daily News about his passion for the craft.

"My father was an architect. I had the choice to either join the army or go to university. I've never looked back."

Architecture, he said, was a "well-rounded" discipline, in which aspects of art, philosophy and environmental issues were all interwoven.

His first projects were two game lodges in northern KZN, where he lived on-site in remote settings and built the buildings and furniture by hand.

In 2001, he developed a lodge unit prefabricated in a workshop and installed in the bush within a few weeks, ensuring as little impact to the environment as possible.

"We focused on sustainability before it became a buzzword - we always focus on the physical components such as light, air and slope and the social aspect such as neighbours, proximity to shops etc - and tried to find a way to make all the elements work sustainably," said the architect of 22 years.

Hopewell Conservation in the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

He said he was "anti-corporate" because larger businesses often turn their backs on sustainability, choosing to only look at the economic aspects of a building.

"But it's not just large corporates guilty of this. In our city, areas are so poorly designed that people sometimes have to use their cars to go and get lunch across the street," he said.

Stretton's architectural projects include residences in the Midlands and private game reserves around the country, Durban's first bar-lounge on a pier for the restaurant Moyo, and the re-development of the Addington amenity on Durban's beachfront.

A restaurant building at Addington Beach.

He received the Elle Decoration Design Award in 2004 and the first award for Sustainable Architecture presented by the South African Institute for Architects in 2010, followed by two awards of merit from the KZN Institute for Architects last year.

Stretton's paper was on the vertical studio project and the course he taught at the University of the Free State earlier this month, focused on thinking of building materials in new and innovative ways.

"I guided the students through a design process that started with materials and structural systems then developed a design based on the materials and systems defined in the initial stage," he explained.

"New Paradigms" marks a positive development in the evolution of the popular KZN Architectural Education Conference, now in its fourth year.

International keynote speakers joined a panel of South African speakers to provide insights into the current realm of urban design and architecture.

Professor John Stevenson, a principal lecturer at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, talked about online architecture training platforms, and award-winning architect Rajeev Kathpalia, director and trustee of the Vastu Shilpa Foundation in India, a nonprofit organisation in environmental and habitat design, focused on urban interventions and working with communities and changing cities.

Daily News

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