WORDS Celeste Jacobs IMAGES Supplied
From conservation to teaching, art and doing a PhD – architect Jan Smit has a wealth of knowledge and an incredibly diverse career spanning over more than three decades. Jan shares more with us here.
Which of your previous projects are you particularly proud of?
I suppose our own house – it received an award from the South African Institute of Architects. It was designed in 2000 and we’re still living there – it also features on Die argitekte. We built the house for a ridiculous price at the time (R 360 000) and reappropriated materials such as old factory steel and a staircase and made the kitchen ourselves with printers plate and trollies. We still love the way it sits on the site and avoids suburbanism.
Can you tell us more about how you’re a part of the VIA TV series, Die argitekte, and what it is about?
The programme features architects in South Africa (mainly those based in Cape Town, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein) who’ve made a difference to the SA architectural scene (young and old). The programme gives a more personal view into an architect’s life: a inspirational building, a building they designed and the house they live in.
What inspired you to become an architect?
I did art from an early age and also liked science. So, the combination seemed an obvious choice at the time – and I’ve never looked back!
How would you describe your philosophy and approach to architecture?
Our vision is to provide a professional and personal service to our clients, regardless of the scope of the project. We consider all clients’ needs as unique and strive towards a sensitive and responsible reaction to these needs. Environmentally appropriate architecture is achieved by respecting the place or site, either in the city or countryside in terms of climate, context, material and appropriate technology. Jan and his wife Petria Jooste-Smit’s respective academic careers focused on meaningful place-making and since they started practicing, the completed architectural work became testament to this approach.
What drives you to continue working in the field?
Every project has new challenges and the excitement never stops. There are new people to meet, new sites to visit, new ideas to try out… Confidence comes with experience and knowledge, both practically and academically.
What are you looking forward to next?
Finishing my PhD and building a new house in the Kalahari and Boggomsbaai!
If you missed Die argitekte, you’re in luck and can still watch the repeat on VIA TV (channel 147) from Mondays to Thursday at 16:30.
Love this series? Check out our interview with Jürgen Kieslich who also features on Die argitekte.