BPAS Architects (BPAS) at WAF

When the Curro Durbanville High School was shortlisted in the “Completed buildings – school” category for the World Architecture Festival (WAF) 2023, it gave the team at BPAS Architects (BPAS) the opportunity to participate on an international stage, with some of the best and brightest in global architecture. 

Speaking from their offices in Cape Town after the festival, Landseer Collen, architect and director of BPAS, and Xander Collen, senior manager of business development, shared their impressions and thoughts on the experience.  

How it began 

BPAS Architects (BPAS) at WAF

The main view of the entrance and the courtyard provides a protective urban space.

The firm was contacted in April 2023, with an enquiry about whether they intended to submit the Curro School design to WAF. “We are so proud of this project and honoured to be nominated to submit our entry,” Xander says. 

Not long after that, they received the news that the project was shortlisted. This marked the beginning of their journey to Singapore, where they would present the project live at WAF 2023. 

Different lingo 

BPAS Architects (BPAS) at WAF

Multi-purpose dance and drama studio.

The preparation and presentation at WAF gave the team a deep understanding of how international players approach discussions on projects. “Our presentation focused more on the process rather than the architecture itself as our project is not a socio-economic building that helps a community – but it is a story of excellence for the children at the school,” says Landseer. 

The presentations that the team attended, were much more focussed on the grandeur and architectural aspects of the project. “They presented a different story, and their messaging was very clear,” he elaborates. “The whole experience was a journey of learning beyond the submission. We walked amid giants.”  

Common ground on merit 

The BPAS team knew they attended WAF on merit, and that they had something to contribute. “In this big arena, with big projects being presented, we found that we faced the same challenges as other firms from around the world,” Landseer explains. 

By attending WAF, BPAS saw how architects from around the world are cross-pollinating ideas, in a massive global collaboration. This seemed at odds with the more regional approach of South African architecture. “Africa still has room for growth. We could start by recognizing the design and architectural talent that exist locally by having events such as WAF, but on a local level, where designers and architects get a platform to network.” 

Celebrating excellence 

The international architectural community has a vibrancy and excitement to it, where countries recognise and support their own architecture. Landseer explains how this is something South Africa should be doing. “We should also celebrate our own architecture. Our projects can compete with what they are doing internationally. We need to start telling our stories to the world.” 

BPAS Architects (BPAS) at WAF

BPAS Principal Director, Landseer Collen and Xander Collen, Senior Manager of Business Development at WAF 2023.

Making connections 

Beyond the experience of presenting at WAF and being on an international stage, the team from BPAS noted the opportunity to mingle with other delegates. Making connections within the global architectural community is encouraged and participation is expected. 

Landseer explains how the WAF made him take stock of what made the Curro project significant, what this does for the firm and how it builds acumen that makes sense for the business. 

Moving forward 

Toyo Ito’s writing compares architecture to how trees battle each other for sunlight and space. Yet below this battle is a quiet, calm canopy to be enjoyed. In describing the overall impression of WAF, and what he has taken away from the experience, Landseer says: “To be part of the journey and know that we can go from better to great.” 

BPAS Architects attended WAF 2023 after being shortlisted for its Curro Durbanville High School project. The team shares their impressions of being part of the largest global live awards event for architects and designers. 

Full acknowledgement and thanks go to:

https://www.bpas.co.za/ for the information in this article.  

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