In Conversation with NEO Architects

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With a vision to turn the magic of stories into structures, NEO Architects crafts spaces that invite an essential fulfilment to daily life. We caught up with Jurie Swart and Wim Verbeek at their practice in Stellenbosch, where we looked beyond the human element to factor in our place amongst and within the landscape, seamlessly expressed through projects like Romansbaai Fynbos Estate and Lagom Cabin. Giving us the chance to glean some insight into their world, the team’s directors Jurie and Wim answer three questions we’ve been itching to ask.

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NEO underwent a rebrand several years ago. How has this evolution influenced the practice, and which projects since the rebrand reflect that influence the most?

The rebranding of NEO Architects several years ago marked a significant turning point for our architectural firm. It not only revamped our visual identity but also reflects our core values, design philosophy, and approach to projects. This evolution has influenced various aspects of our practice, from the way we communicate with clients to the methodologies we employ in our designs.

In terms of projects that reflect the influence of our rebranding efforts, several standout examples come to mind. Among them, our recently completed Doxa Chapel in Pretoria stands out as an ideal representation of our evolved design ethos. From its inception, this project aimed to be more avant-garde than our usual design approach. Through meticulous attention to detail and innovative design strategies, we were able to deliver a unique landmark building that emphasises sustainability, community engagement, and marrying creativity with practical solutions.

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Another project that showcases the impact of our rebranding is the refurbishment of the Kanonkop Wine Estate’s tasting room. This might be a relatively small project compared to our overall collection of work, but it demonstrates our ability to adapt to various client needs, our commitment to reactivate spaces that inspire and breathe new life into underutilised or abandoned structures, and our revitalising of urban areas.

One of the most evident impacts of the rebranding has been the refinement of our design principles. Although the company has received several awards for architecture in the pre-branding era, we have embraced a more holistic approach that integrates sustainability, innovation, and human-centric design into every project we undertake. This shift in mindset has allowed us to create spaces that not only meet the functional requirements of our clients but also create a connection through our architecture.

What are your favourite requests to see in a client brief?

An overall well-defined brief to create a customised solution that aligns with the client’s vision, needs, and preferences on its own is a welcome sight. Other than ‘there’s no budget’, our favorite request is for the project to be unique to the vernacular of its surroundings.

Lagom Cabin by 3Sixty Photography

Can you tell us about an upcoming project you’re especially excited about?

We are currently busy with a large commercial and multi-residential project in Paarl, where the architecture is reminiscent of the Meatpacking District in New York, with robust and industrial style finishes, but with a contemporary approach that pays homage to the historic value of the surrounding context.

This article is an extract from our April volume, click here to read the follow volume!

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