People of Joburg – Silvio and Lesley – Designers and Architects
For Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens, adventure is what it is all about. Founded by Silvio Rech in 1994, joined by Lesley Carstens in 1999, this Johannesburg-based power couple have raked in, so many awards for their creations that it makes the mind boggle.
We of course spent some time catching up with this creative duo.
Silvio and Lesley – tell us a bit about your company, and how it came about?
SR: Adventure is what it’s all about, and a driving force to create a new “African (architectural) language”, and to live onsite from the get-go of all projects -with our design philosophy based on encompassing the culture, local materials and colours of the environment being onsite meant that we were able to absorb the essence of the cultural mix and communal effort it takes to make them real. I founded the company in 1994, and Les joined me in 1999, and we’re now a team of about 10 – architects and interior designers.
You have won numerous awards for your work – which one was your favourite to work on, and wound up winning you an award?
SR: It’s very hard to single out a favourite – they are all favourites actually – because of the way we immerse ourselves so completely in each project, a bit like method actors, they become part of us – but there are the iconic ones like North Island (Seychelles) and Miavana (Madagascar), the bespoke homes K Cottage (Plettenberg Bay) and House Pengilly (Clifton)-where we did the interior architecture and design, and currently our own House Rech Carstens in Westcliff.
What is one the biggest challenges you face in your business?
SR: Challenges are staying ahead of the pack, communicating with clients and sticking to the concept and executing it onsite.
How do you keep innovating, or staying ahead of the trends?
SR: We’re hardwired to be innovative I think…it’s part of our DNA.
Books or movies and why?
SR: I read a lot of Architecture books – many Jon Lautner books. ..also those on Japanese minimalism, but at the moment I’m reading ‘Never trust a skinny Italian Chef’ by Massimo Boturra – we actually had the pleasure of eating at his restaurant Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Modena. And movies – I loved ‘Black Panther’ and also Paolo Sorrentino’s ‘La Grande Bellezza’.
LC: Currently re-reading Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness after our recent expedition to the Congo.
What is currently in your CD player or on your iPod?
SR: Pink Floyd – mad about guitarist Dave Gilmore.
LC: Milky Chance
Fave South African food of all time?
SR: Shisanyama and Zamalek (Black Label)
LC: Bobotie or lamb chops in the Karoo
Who is your biggest inspiration of all time (work or personal)?
SR: The ‘everyman’ – that is the African craftsmen that we encounter and work throughout African, mostly southern Africa and Jon Lautner, the American architect. He was the main inspiration for House Pengilly.
LC: Annalisa and her husband Peter Zumthor (one of the architects of the 21st century), known for buildings that are responsive to their location and function – also love the Japanese greats – Tadao Andoa, Kengo Kuma.
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