Most industries have been intensely affected by rapid digitisation and developing technology. New business models had to be embraced to improve accuracy and efficiency.

Similarly, architects had to adapt to changes and the role they play in society.

Adopting technological advancements

Landseer Collen, principal, director and founder of BPAS Architects

The role of the architect has seemingly changed significantly and accelerated in the past three years with the introduction of new technologies.

One of the architectural firms in South Africa that is at the forefront of embracing technology and really using it and leveraging it to the benefit of its clients is BPAS Architects.

Landseer Collen, principal, director and founder of BPAS Architects, says the development of architecture over time has now moved to embrace technology.

2D and 3D renderings are the norm. The metaverse, virtual reality and augmented reality are also embraced, and architects need to be able to pull all these aspects together. Collen believes architects must adapt and change and embrace new technologies to find a new place in the world.

According to Collen, the role of architects has changed drastically, and they are no longer just the people providing ideas and plans. Their additional role has been affected and their responsibilities are changing.

He recently published his views on the changing role of architecture. We delved deeper into this during our in-depth interview.

How do you see the changing role of architecture in the current landscape in South Africa in particular, and with the interior designing component?

We are specifically experiencing changes in the environment that we work with, which are predominantly in the Cape Town metropolitan area and Gauteng. The pace of projects are increasing with the need to exceed in speed to deliver. This, if not managed correctly, can potentially lead to other problems, such as a compromise in quality.

So, some of the things that we focussed on to accelerate speed in the business are specific skills and technology. Skills can only be achieved through years of adequate academic training and after that many years of work experience.

The second component is technology. A practise today need both, so we had to invest in both aspects: Upskill our people and upgrade and plan for technology intervention to improve expertise.

What do you see as critical skills for architects going forward? Where must the architect develop himself and what technologies would you suggest?

I don’t think creative skills are under threat. But with the use of technology, creativity, concepts and development are improving, and it has been driven by architects in the creative environment. Technology has been extremely helpful in the production of the creativity. If we apply that technology to our working environment, we will find that we will improve productivity.

Research and simple communication tools are already changing the landscape and there are a lot of new tools, almost like a new frontier.

We already have artificial intelligence (AI) in our digital environment. We’re actively using VR. If we understand what is required in terms of creativity, we must also understand that in skills development or outcomes we must become technology orientated, instead of just learning about being an architect. The compilation of digital technology is becoming part of that training and development in our practice.

I think we tend to think that when we have learned something, that is the boundary of our knowledge, as opposed to having a growth mindset of constant learning. Exploring and playing with technology and investing in it offshore after significant exposure is definitely beneficial.

Why is it important for the architect to continue to adapt?

The industry and profession of optics are about adapting. You will become an island if you are unwilling to adapt and you’ll be stuck in a groove.

At BPAS, teaching is part of our philosophy and design developments. This is the foundation of who we are. We must seek the opportunity to bring this into context.

Without change, you will always be the guide of yesterday and your focus should be to become the people or practice of tomorrow. Otherwise, you will just be stuck in the current timeframe.

The role of the architect must change and continuously evolve. How do you see the role of the architect a decade from now?

A while ago, there was much talk about 2030 and 2040, with focus points in terms of what is happening within the industry and how people will be replaced by technology. I doubt that architects will be replaced, but instead, we will become strengthened in the environment as architectural roles will no longer just be about designing a building.

It will be part of the code collaboration, co-living and co-designing of spaces with other professionals such as urban designers, interior and landscape architects. These spaces will become more debated as humanity’s needs escalate.

The involvement of consultants and the development of these skills will force more and more current collaboration between consultants to add value or improve the quality of life for the residents and occupants of these spaces.

No longer will you just build something in the middle of a street without consideration, isolating your development. We will become more inclusive in terms of our environment. We will become more inclusive of our research and co-design with other consultants when we do projects in urban areas.

Tell us a little bit about some of the projects that you are busy with currently.

We are busy with a higher institution project in Cape Town, all driven by what is happening in the future. We are doing a couple of schools across the country, residential projects and we are looking forward to our social housing developments that are currently wrapping up.

We are also working on an exciting multi-purpose high-rise building concept with a consideration of what is happening in and around the building, and that influences the adjacent buildings, businesses and transport. In this instance, the developers are conscious of the influence of the placement of a building in a specific area and want to serve the needs of the people in that area specifically.

Ed’s note: It’s exciting and refreshing to see SA firms such as BPAS invest so strongly in their people and firms to future-proof themselves.

For more information, contact BPAS Architects:
Tel: +27 861 744 835
Email: info@bpas.co.za
Website: www.bpas.co.za

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