Finding inspiration in everyday designs: tips from SA designer

image002The unusual structures made from old exhaust pipes that identify informal exhaust repair services next to the road are an excellent example of everyday design practice that can inspire creativity, says Thorsten Deckler co-founder and principal of 26’10 south Architects.

“There are many ordinary citizens, who often under difficult circumstances make sophisticated design decisions which are often not recognised by trained designers,” says Deckler. The esteemed architect will share many more of his own design inspirations at the highly anticipated Architecture ZA 2015 (AZA2015) event, set to take place in the heart of Johannesburg – The Sheds @ 1 Fox in Newtown, from 24 to 26 September 2015.

Deckler’s advice for young designers is to “look around you and treat your surroundings as your primary resource.” Unfortunately designers are often inundated with too much visuals resulting in an overload, which can leave one blind to immediate surroundings.

As a leader in the South African design scene, Deckler is quick to point out that design trends are constantly changing and that it is difficult to really identify who is a trendsetter worth watching. “Trends are like styles – most of them come and go.”

For young hopefuls Deckler says that it all depends on a lot of hard work. “Doing the work sets you apart from the rest. Hard work unlocks inspiration from within a project and although it is a mostly unglamorous struggle it means a young designer can complete a key learning cycle – namely trying, failing, reflecting, adapting and succeeding. This full cycle is repeated throughout one’s profession and can continue to serve and define your ultimate success in the industry.”

Deckler shares four more tips for young architects and designers:

  1. Learn to embrace complexity: Although individual parts add up to the whole, the whole is complex and not simple. “A problem cannot be reduced to one reading or solved by one idea alone,” says Deckler. “If you don’t understand this concept, watch all episodes of The Wire series.”
  2. Draw, draw and draw some more: “The inaccuracy of a hand drawing often helps you to ‘lie a little’, to pursue ideas, rather than technical solutions.” Picasso once said that “Art is the lie that enables us to realise the truth.”  It is in drawing, Deckler explains, that there is a more direct connection between your hand and brain which allows you to develop ideas and react to them quickly.
  3. Know how things work: “If you do not know how things work, make a point of finding out,” says Deckler adding that “there is no excuse not to do this.”
  4. Integrity is key: “Don’t try to be nice or to be liked by your contemporaries – be tough but fair and act with integrity,” advises Deckler. While this applies to most aspects of life, like parenting, it also holds true to the trench warfare-like experience of building a building.

When looking for design inspiration, who does Deckler follow with a keen eye? “The people I respect and admire are not really trendsetters, their work sets them apart from trends by addressing more primary or universal aspects of architecture like scale, light, materials, proportions, habitation and occupying the landscape.”

Although hesitant to mention specific names, Deckler does list veteran South African designer, Gawie Fagan – who is soon turning 90 – as a personal inspiration. Architect duos like Ilze and Heinrich Wolff offer inspiration because of the multifaceted approach they have developed. “They curate, write, build, research, and teach in order to continuously expand their understanding of the discipline.”

AZA2015 will be a melting pot for ideas as local and international design experts share experiences and best practice. The event is not just a conference; there will be master classes, workshops and multitude of public events. It is an opportunity for interested participants from non-design disciplines to share in the future of South Africa’s cities and be part of the regeneration of major urban life, right in the heart of Johannesburg.