Future thinking collaboration fosters innovation

by Ofentse Sefolo
Future thinking collaboration fosters innovation

FuturePart is a multidisciplinary research studio that works on alternate design and conceptual opportunities that are not part of traditional architectural practice; yet run parallel in the solutions they provide within the built environment. It is an initiative of Boogertman + Partners Architects and collaborates on a range of projects with academic research teams, film producers, sound engineers, product designers, digital and graphic designers.

The studio works in three activity streams
• Knowledge capture – documenting and disseminating specialist knowledge and skills that live within the 38 years of extended expertise within the Boogertman + Partners group.
• Knowledge Gathering – workshops and techniques of capturing specific sector insights or framing conceptual hypothesis for projects.
• Knowledge Production – Rigorous research projects that grapple with some of the most difficult questions facing the built environment in Africa today.

The Possibilities of Collective Space exhibition was held at the University of Witwatersrand School of Architecture and Planning. Curated by FuturePart on behalf of Boogertman + Partners, it posed six critical questions that future architectural practice will need to consider.

Brilliant minds gather to spark innovation.

Bob van Bebber, (Director of Boogertman + Partners and FuturePart) says that gathering a range of multi-talented professionals together to answer the specific needs of each project allows for the opportunity for co-learning and increased innovation in solutions reached.

Bob van Bebber (Director of Boogertman + Partners and FuturePart) with the prototype of the InCommon bench he designed specifically for the exhibition InCommon: The Possibilities of Collective Space held at the University of Witwatersrand School of Architecture and Planning.

“Highly skilled individuals working across fields to develop solutions through a shared discourse produce unusual answers that conventional practice may not have reached.” Further FuturePart has a strong focus on measuring and tracking the process used in each collaboration to ensure that that each project informs and improves future projects. “Teams are built on a belief in design as an agent of change creating alternate design opportunities,” says van Bebber.

Sharing knowledge and process

Launched one year ago FuturePart has already received local and international attention. The first formal research project exploring inner city Privately Managed Public Spaces in Johannesburg and Nairobi has been presented at the University of Cambridge School of Architecture, and the research paper has been accepted for inclusion at the UIA (International Union of Architects ) conference (unfortunately postponed from this June to June 2021 due to COVID19).

Closer to home FuturePart curated an exhibition posing six questions to be considered for future built environment work using Boogertman + Partners projects, which includes the formal research insights and street photography by Sally Gaule. The exhibition, called InCommon: The Possibilities of Collective Space and the public lecture was done in association with University of Witwatersrand School of Architecture and Planning and closed just as South Africa went into lockdown in response to the Coronavirus.

FuturePart is integral as architects need to remain informed on how things may change in the industry in future and it creates a community to help navigate the future.

What is important, according to van Bebber is that “it is enlightening to take the ideas and process of architectural practice and share them with clients, academics, students and the public. If we demonstrate our process and thinking to our audience, be it clients or the public, and open up critical dialogue we improve the understanding between the people who commission work, the teams who deliver the work and the public who ultimately are the end-users of the spaces we design.”

Helping find solutions for the future.

van Bebber feels that studios such as FuturePart are an integral part of the future of not only the built environment but the practice of architecture. “Architects need to remain informed on how things may change in the industry and the agency of this multidisciplinary collective practice is to create a community that can help navigate the challenges we currently face. Not only are we dealing with the current economic downturn and the time and delivery pressures it demands, but we also now have to reimagine ourselves after a global pandemic.”

According to the Director, research will be a critical part of helping to find the answers. “The challenges are difficult”, he says “while we may be the largest architecture practice in Africa we are aware of the many questions we don’t have the answers to and believe that a vehicle such as FuturePart can initiate the critical dialogues needed with as many role players as possible so that we can positively impact the built environment.

Full thanks and acknowledgement are given to Boogertman + Partners Architects for the information in this article.

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