Crafting the Future: Step Inside Craft of Architecture with Open Studios

Crafting the Future: Step Inside Craft of Architecture with Open Studios

When the sun dips below the horizon in Cape Town, a different kind of light – the creative spark – continues to thrive in the heart of the city. This is especially true during the Open Studios event, an annual celebration where the visionary architects of tomorrow welcome you into their creative sanctum. 

Watch the video above to see the event in action, and find out more below:

A Glimpse into COA’s Creative World

COA, renowned for its innovative approach and dedication to the craft, recently opened its doors for the latest Open Studios event. This one-night affair, held on the 18th of October, wasn’t just an open house – it was an intimate invitation into the “every day” of the studio, an opportunity to witness the creative process, engage in stimulating dialogue, and foster connections that could shape future collaborations.

John Van Wyk, one of our founding directors, shares his excitement about the event: emphasising that it was more about showcasing the daily life at the studio rather than focusing on specific projects. It was a chance to reveal the creative process, the day-to-day activities, and the outcomes of their hard work. 

Michal Korycki (director) echoed these sentiments, highlighting the event’s role in demystifying the profession of architecture and providing a platform for connection and networking among professionals and enthusiasts alike. “Open Studios is a great initiative to kind of have a look behind the curtains of all the top architectural practices around Cape Town.

The event, established in 2013, has grown exponentially, reflecting Cape Town’s burgeoning status as a hive of architectural innovation. The city-wide celebration stretched from the shimmering lights of De Waterkant and the Foreshore in the north to the artistic heartbeats of Kloof Street in the south. The second night saw enthusiasts exploring the creative districts of Gardens, East City, Woodstock, and Salt River, each studio offering a unique insight into the architectural prowess Cape Town boasts.

Ian Gray, one of the COA founding directors, as well as Mobius Interior Architecture, also shared his insights, discussing the importance of showcasing the tangible aspects of architecture, from materials and textures to physical models and animated presentations. “It’s put on by the city to showcase architecture in the city and

showcase what we’re all doing. Which is just opening up the studios so everybody can see what kind of work we do and the way we do it. Which is quite interesting because you see the different cultures.”

Open Studios: An Educational Journey

The Open Studios event was more than a showcase; it was an educational journey. Visitors, whether students contemplating a career in architecture or professionals seeking inspiration, were immersed in a world of conceptual sketches, 3D models, and interactive presentations. It was a space where questions were encouraged, curiosity was rewarded, and creative boundaries were pushed.

Ian says: “So by this we’re hoping to show that there’s a culture and a vibe in the office, and we’re kind of giving more than this online work, and if you come into this space, you know. It’s a great space for creatives to work, I think”. 

COA’s Club Med Project: A Testament to Global Expertise and Cultural Respect

One of the event’s highlights at COA was the showcase of their recent Club Med project, the brand’s first footprint on African soil.

This wasn’t just any project; it was a testament to COA’s global expertise and adaptability, a confluence of cultural respect, innovative design, and environmental harmony. The project echoed the studio’s philosophy of deeply understanding client needs and realising visions through a collaborative partnership. 

What Sets COA Apart

But what makes COA stand apart in the architectural world? It’s their unwavering commitment to the creative process, a diverse team integrating skills, knowledge, and experience to breathe life into ideas. Their portfolio is a tapestry of architectural ingenuity, spanning various industry sectors worldwide. From master planning and urban design to bridges and infrastructure, each project is a story, a lasting imprint on the landscape of human experience.

A Walk Through COA’s Space

Imagine walking through COA’s space, where each corner turned led to a new discovery. Here, a discussion on sustainable materials and their role in future constructions; there, a deep dive into the complexities of urban planning in growing cities. In one room, the intricate models of private home collections reflected personalised luxury and innovation; in another, the blueprints of commercial and mixed-use spaces highlighted the multifaceted nature of communal living. “And then I think it’s going to come down to them seeing what they do and kind of falling in love with that kind of, that part of the process”, says Ian. 

The event wasn’t just about what COA has accomplished; it was a horizon-expanding experience for attendees. The young eyes that widened in awe at towering models might belong to the next generation’s leading architect. The seasoned professional, rekindling their passion through engaging discussions, might spearhead a project that redefines the city’s skyline.

A Testament to Community and Collaboration

Moreover, Open Studios was a testament to COA’s belief in community and collaboration. The event was free, removing barriers to entry and ensuring an inclusive atmosphere. The studios were grouped by location, encouraging visitors to traverse the city’s heart and engage with its creative pulse. The encouragement of alternative transport resonated with COA’s commitment to sustainability, a small but significant step toward environmental consciousness.

While the event was an open invitation to explore and foster professional connections, it was, at its core, about igniting a communal passion for architecture. John says, “We’re just trying to show off how we live everyday here. It’s not about showing off specific projects or anything, it’s literally about what we do in our day and what comes out of it.” 

It was about inspiring the next wave of architects, designers, and creatives who will carry the torch forward, shaping our living environments with empathy, sustainability, and innovation.

The Future of Architecture in Cape Town

The future of architecture in Cape Town is bright. With its vibrant creative community and commitment to sustainability, the city is poised to become a global leader in architectural innovation. Open Studios is just one example of the many ways that Cape Town is celebrating and nurturing its architectural heritage.

So, next time you’re in Cape Town, be sure to check out Open Studios and other architectural events. You might be surprised at what you learn and inspired by what you see. After all, architecture is all around us, and it plays a vital role in shaping our lives. It’s time to start paying attention!

Michael said: “So the most exciting and important thing that we take away from Open Studios is that it’s showing the youth and the young guys what an architect does, what the studio space is about and showing some of our projects that are exciting in the city and abroad and to reconnect with our colleagues in the industry.”

Imagine a Cape Town where every building is a work of art, where every space is designed to promote human well-being, and where everyone has a place to call home. This is the future of architecture that COA’s Open Studios is helping to create.

Leading Architecture & Design, PARC


Parc at Gold Coast Estate, Sibaya Coastal precinct

Gold Coast Estate, Sibaya Coastal Precinct, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

Parc is a residential development comprising 40 duplex type homes arranged around an open park. A contemporary response with the living areas on the ground floor and bedrooms above. The living areas incorporate floor to ceiling and wall to wall openings. This allows for a great flow to the patios & plenty of natural light and ventilation. The bedrooms on the upper floor are expressed as a combination of punctured boxes, walls, and screens. These allow for various levels of privacy depending on the location and orientation of these rooms.

Read the full article

COA recently completed the next phase of the estate, a residential development made up of 40 duplex-type homes arranged around an open park. In keeping with the estate’s emphasis on a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle and focus on family life, the residential units have been designed to engage with and activate the shared space of the park, catalysing the sense of community that develops from communal outdoor space and casual social interactions.

Key “anchor” facilities – the clubhouse on one side and the sports facility on the other – have been placed on either end of the central park, thus activating the path between the two. These facilities offer limited parking, which also encourages residents to walk rather than drive. The residential units are arranged in such a way that they all have gates that directly access the green belt, further encouraging foot traffic and activating the park.

One key departure from the standard approach to units in residential estates was the decision to separate the garages from the units. This created several beneficial consequences.

Firstly, by positioning the garages beneath the estate road, COA freed up considerable space for the park. It also created an opportunity to introduce landscaping around the entrances of the units, creating a richer, more varied, and textured experience of the landscape design of the driveway, and minimising the hard surfaces. Thirdly, it made it possible to open the north-facing side of the units to receive abundant northern light, not to mention making cross-ventilation possible for the natural cooling of the interiors.

The architects introduced extensive planting into the landscaping and in features such as the chamfered cantilever over the garages – not only screening the units from passing cars to enhance privacy, but also creating a pleasing middle ground for their northernly outlook.

The individual units are a contemporary take on the kind of stylistically and climatically appropriate tropical modernism distinctive of the region. COA designed custom-made precast breezeblocks to make eye-catching floating screens that impart a strong identity and architectural character to the estate.

The combination of these screens with off-shutter concrete, contemporary black brick and plastered masonry creates a subtle but rich textural variation, which articulates the functions of the various parts of each unit according to the modernist dictum that form follows function. (It also expresses the distinct identity of each unit as a unique “home” within a harmonious aesthetic approach.)

In general, the living areas are located on the ground floor and bedrooms above. The living areas incorporate floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall openings that encourage an indoor-outdoor lifestyle with seamless access to patios. The bedrooms on the upper floor are expressed as a combination of punctured boxes, walls, and screens, which allow for various levels of privacy, depending on the location and orientation of these rooms.

This, together with the clever arrangement of units – some of them mirroring each other so that their garden space is maximized without necessitating high walls – creates a balance of privacy and community, and a pleasing relationship between private and shared space within the estate that offers the best of both worlds.

Leading Architecture & Design, Kinetic Curtain


Gold Coast Estate Sibaya Sports Facility

Gold Coast Estate, Sibaya Coastal Precinct, Durban, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa

The new Sports Facility at the Gold Coast Estate in Sibaya Coastal Precinct, designed by Craft of Architecture not only acts as a place-maker at the entrance of the new estate by makes a striking contribution to the climatically responsive regional tradition.

Read article

Leading Architecture & Design, Kinetic Curtain

Gold Coast Estate on the Kwa-Zulu-Natal North Coast is an architecturally modern luxury family estate, which forms part of the 1000ha Sibaya Coastal Precinct.

The broader precinct includes residential, retail, and commercial developments. The estate emphasizes a healthy, active outdoor lifestyle with a focus on family life. A network of running and biking trails and paths winds through the estate and into the precinct.

One of the estate’s early stand-out features is the sports facility at its entrance, nestled into the landscape alongside the gatehouse and partially visible from the passing highway. Given the prominence of its position, the sports centre has at once to function as a recognizable and welcoming landmark, setting the tone for the aesthetics and identity of the estate, while not upstaging the gatehouse. As such, the architects, Craft of Architecture – who are also responsible for the estate’s aesthetic guidelines – allowed themselves a somewhat individualistic building, encouraging variation within the contemporary architectural framework.

Features of the Gold Coast Estate Facility

The position of the sports centre is also of strategic importance to the urban design of the estate. It is positioned so that it activates an adjacent central park, attracting walkers and bringing life to the communal green space. Limited parking discourages the use of motor vehicles, while promoting walking and cycling in keeping with the active, outdoor lifestyle associated with the estate. It is also placed as a convenient stop when returning to the estate, as well as allowing easy passage out to the rest of the Sibaya Coastal Precinct from the gatehouse.

The sports facility includes a 500m2 gym, a flexible recreational studio space for dance or yoga, a high-altitude training room, and a squash court. Outside, a 25-metre lap pool is positioned along the northern edge of the building, “hunkered” into the landscape where it is protected from the highway, as well as a tennis court to the south. 

In contrast to typically enclosed or artificially lit and mechanically ventilated ‘basement’ gyms, the sports centre offers views, air, and natural light – the workout area even spills out into a covered outdoor area. A two-storey modernist-inspired ‘glass box’ thus forms the basis of the design, providing a simple and efficient ‘skeleton’, while a protective aluminum mesh brise-soleil wraps around the building on its upper level, resolving both challenges in terms of heat gain and shelter from the sun, as well as concern for privacy. (Perforated and laser-cut screens were also used on the gatehouse, providing a degree of continuity between the adjacent buildings.)

Inside the Gold Coast Sports Facility

Inside, the use of space has been maximized – the plinth of the stairs includes storage, and also functions as seating for spectators watching matches in the central squash court.

The screen itself gives the facility its primary identity and aesthetic impact, COA devised the brise-soleil as a kinetic screen, made from 14 000 perforated aluminum tiles individually mounted on pins, allowing them to ripple and shimmer when activated by the wind.

Although the essential mechanism is simple, challenges in terms of acoustics (rattling) and wear and tear had to be resolved with the use of a gasket or plastic sleeve that not only prevents noise, but is robust enough to withstand constant movement without corrosion or degradation. 


Although the design team explored several design iterations with varying degrees of complexity, size, pattern and colour, they found that a uniform skin and small tiles best expressed the effect of the wind and provided the desired rippling effect. The rounded corners of the screen allow a sense of uninterrupted movement to flow around the perimeter of the building, which would not have been possible with corners. 

The aluminum tiles have a milled or matte finish to prevent harsh reflections of sunlight from the outside. They are perforated to allow views from the inside, as if through a shifting curtain. The screen’s nature as a ‘second skin’ is further articulated by the use of a black brick façade on the southern end of the building. The brick surface seems to slip behind the screen, heightening the multi-layered effect while amply demonstrating that the design responds to the site and conditions inside and outside the building, not simply applying a preconceived idea.

The kinetic skin not only joins and advances the regional tradition of responsive design associated with Durban’s subtropical climate, but it also, in animating the movement of the wind, becomes part of an ongoing local community conversation, responding to and articulating environmental and climatic changes. In this coastal setting, changes in weather and wind conditions play an important part in the everyday life of the community and are a central topic of conversation among groups ranging from surfers to fisherman.

The brise-soleil in tropical modernist architecture in hot climates is a tried-and-tested shading device and an effective way to catch natural cooling breezes. Its expressive, communicative character also links it to other innovative contemporary precedents such as the Millennium Tower on the Bluff designed by Don Albert & Partners, which, through its movement, coveys information about the tide and wind direction.

As such, the sports facility at Gold Coast Estate Sibaya makes a striking and creative contribution not just to the precinct, but to the local architectural tradition, while both encouraging and expressing the active, outdoorsy character of the local lifestyle.

Vamizi Private Village Hotels and Lodges

Just in Time for Summer Break!

Estate Guidelines, Featured Projects, Hotels & Lodges

Vamizi Island Private Villas

Vamizi Island, Quirimbas Archipelago, Mozambique

Vamizi Island is one of COA’s feature projects. 6 private villas have been designed and built in ways to compliment this pristine environment – enjoy!

As seen in the Financial Times: 

November 11, 2018

Marianna Giusti 

Reef diving and conservation in Mozambique

“Vamizi Island, one of andBeyond’s three eco resorts off the north coast of Mozambique, east Africa, was the destination for two guide-led trips in 2019 (March 14-19 and October 9 -14).

The island lies at the heart of one of the world’s healthiest coral reefs, with 180 species of coral and 400 species of reef fish. Accompanied by Dr Tessa Hempson, a leading marine biologist, guests will gain unparalleled insights into the ecology of the island, joining in conservation work such as measuring reef systems.

There will be kayaking opportunities and, for the experienced, a trip to Neptune’s Arm, a submarine plateau legendary amongst divers. A five-night stay in one of six private villas costs $10,775, including a $1,500 donation to andBeyond and Africa Foundation’s Oceans Without Borders conservation programme in east Africa.”

BIM, the tool mastered by COA

BIM, the design and collaborative tool mastered by COA

Architectural projects are inherently complex, from ideation to documentation, to detailing and informative presentation to clients. BIM (Building Information Modelling) is an increasingly essential tool in this multi-tiered and collaborative design process.

The cloud-based service is accessible at a multitude of levels, of which COA is the most advanced Graphisoft/BIM office in the country. As a result, we use BIM in a highly integrated manner, enabling some of the most efficient and effective communication from clients to construction teams. COA Director, Ian Gray, elaborates on the reality which BIM creates.

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COA Directors Profile

Designing Ways Editorial – COA Profile

Designing Ways Editorial – COA Profile

For more information on Craft of Architecture, visit our Studio page or Contact page.

Celebrating 10 Years of Their Craft

With a vast portfolio of projects ranging from urban design, commercial, hospitality, retail, mixed -use and infrastructure to retirement estates, residential, educational and sports facilities, Craft of Architecture (COA) celebrates a decade of producing innovative and sustainable solutions for their clients. 


Josh Truter chats to Ian Gray, John van Wyk and Michal Korycki about their first decade together as COA. 


JT: What is the ethos of your practice?

COA: The team at Craft of Architecture is passionate about design and craftsmanship. We invest enormous care and thought into each and every project and pay meticulous attention to the client’s brief. 


JT: What would you say gives you the competitive advantage?

COA: We all share a belief in our craft. Filtering down to the last degree – from concept to final product. It is this hands-on philosophy that is evident in our work; valuing the creative process above all else places a strong emphasis on a collaborative approach. We have offices in Cape Town and Durban and currently employ over 30 architects and interior designers.


The management team has many years of experience from working all over the world, particularly in the Middle East, and our firm includes many relatively young architects who bring a fresh approach to creating the right vision for the projects. In addition, by utilizing technology and streamlining the production with BIM systems, the team has more time to focus on better solutions, thus ensuring that the practice remains a market leader. 

JT: Which projects have been the most memorable for you?

COA: There have been many but we loved working on the tropical style of architecture that we used for the villas on Vamizi Island, which is part of the Quirimbas Archipelago off the coast of Mozambique. Obviously, spending weeks at a time on an untouched tropical island that’s protected by the WWF, diving and enjoying the lifestyle (dining on locally caught seafood) under the stars made this one of our favourites.


Uhmlanga Arch is a stunning new mixed-use development due for completion in 2021. When finished, it will cover 45 000 square metres of usable area, including 163 apartments, commercial facilities, a hotel, restaurants and retail space.


It’s been exciting to work with Think3Dlab, a state-of-the-art 3D graphic visualisation company, to create virtual reality of the project using VR headsets while the actual project was still only on the drawing board. It’s one of our favourites because the project is such an immerse challenge where we have to work with the scale and massive size of the project, while trying to coordinate the tenant mix and still trying to ensure that everything works well with each other.


Then there’s the Tokai Healthcare Retirement Estate which is a world class retirement village set in Tokai, Cape Town. It consists of 120 free-standing homes with healthcare and a clubhouse.


We enjoyed the challenge as it had to be completed within a 14-month period. Internationally, the Montenegro Private Villas has been very rewarding. We won a design competition whereafter we were commissioned to design the private villas within the Porti Novi Marina. We loved the site and designing luxury high end villas, located on the lake and catering for the high-end client using the super-yacht and we thoroughly enjoyed working with the international consultant teams. 

JT: What do you have in the pipeline for the next 12 months? 

COA: Apart from the projects that we’re working on, the interior component of our business is reaching its 5th year, and we are looking forward to launching our furniture range. This range comprises a mixed blend of styles, interpreting the various environments we are working within currently around the globe. We will also be launching a furniture range exclusive to the retirement community – it has been designed to ergonomically suit the elderly. 

JT: Looking ahead, what developments do you see for your profession?

COA: We envisage the 3D print world becoming more user-friendly to designers and utilized more within the built environment. Not only will this be applicable to upmarket products like the hotel industry, where rooms can be reproduced by print and visually stacked on one another, but hopefully it will also be used to successfully create housing designs.


With 3D visualisation and BIM modelling becoming more and more sophisticated, we will see better thought out and resolved structures being built, meaning that ideas are thought of and resolved before they hit the construction stage, resulting in better builds. In Africa, as a result of the struggle with ongoing sustainability becoming crucially important, with more and more people and developers insisting their projects and homes are able to function off the grid.

Devmco Diaries – Umhlanga Arch

Devmco Diaries – Umhlanga Arch

For more information on this project, please see the Umhlanga Arch Feature project or view more of our  Commercial & Mixed-Use projects.


Leading Architecture & Design, Arch of Glass

Leading Architecture & Design, Arch of Glass – April/May 2020

Umhlanga Arch, designed by Craft of Architecture in Umhlanga’s Ridgeside precinct, makes a bold architectural statement while harnessing while harnessing the power of urban design to resolve its electric design elements.

Read the full article here on pages 22-25.

Zimbali Lakes Commercial and Mixed Use

Introducing Zimbali Lakes Resort

Introducing Zimbali Lakes Resort

KwaDukuza, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Experience a new chapter in the Zimbali legacy at Zimbali Lakes Resort.

For more information on this project please see:
Zimbali Lakes Resort Feature (Journal Entry)
Zimbali Lakes Resort (Commercial & Mixed Use)
Zimbali Lakes Resort (Master Planning & Urban Design)

Umhlanga Developments

Umhlanga Arch – Development Editorial

Umhlanga Arch – Development Editorial

Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

For more information on this project please see:

Umhlanga Arch (Feature Project)

SMG Umhlanga Rocks (Interiors & brand Architecture)

Hilton Hotel (Hotels & Lodges)

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