Our Editor IGOR CVORO sits down for an exclusive interview with PHILLIP WYATT Director of INHOUSE a world renowned design consultancy in South Africa. The practice was founded in 2002 by Aidan Hart and Lawrence Holmes, expanding today from offices in Cape Town to Johannesburg. Mr Wyatt is joined at the helm as Inhouse director alongside founder Aidan Hart.
For the latest issue of DESIGN SCENE we talked with Mr Wyatt about his start in architecture, his design philosophy and work process, and sustainability in today’s architecture.
What is your background in architecture and interior design?
I have a BA (Hons) in Interior Architecture from the Surrey Institute of Art & Design University in the United Kingdom.
What originally made you want to go into architecture? What has inspired your career?
I have always been a creative and always loved drawing. My father is in a similar industry, so it may have simply been in the genes to get into interior architecture.
How long have you been working in the interior architecture field?
I have been doing this for 16, going on 17 years.
How would you describe your work? What is your design philosophy?
My philosophy is around producing work that is current, relevant and within what is required by clients. In terms of staying current, we often travel to Milan for the annual design fair and use that as a yardstick as to what is going on around the world. While I think South Africa has a little way to go to be on a par with international design and creative standards, the gap is closing. South Africa is definitely ahead of the curve when it comes to innovation, however, as we don’t have the same resources on tap as say the US or Europe for example, so we have to innovate and think out of the box.
What is your approach to design? How do you put this approach into practice?
We tend to follow the design style our clients want, while putting our own creative stamp on things. Each client will have a different vision and we take it from there.
How does the path from an idea to a final project look like for you?
Ideas come to me in the strangest ways, but probably like most of us – through everyday activities. I have ideas while I’m running, having a shower, eating breakfast with the kids… Then the next step is just sketching it out, brainstorming and sitting with the team to assess if it could work. More often than not, it becomes a driving theme within the main concept for the project. Your passion for an idea will also have a big influence.
The most interesting thing that you have learnt from being an interior architect?
Patience and listening are two things actually. You need to hear what people are saying and respond respectfully, while giving your point of view as the design expert. I have also learnt that having passion for something can mean it will come naturally.
Are you concerned about environmental and social sustainability in your buildings?
There is definitely a drive to be more eco-friendly and energy efficient in design. Clients are certainly realising it is important not to just look after South Africa, but the entire planet, and there is a certain ethical responsibility that comes with the job as a designer, too. I believe it is always good to promote and utilise local products and skills as much as possible, as well as to reduce waste, utilise renewable resources and install energy efficient systems. There is also a drive from our local regulatory bodies for new buildings -both commercial and residential – to be more sustainable.
Your firm is based in South Africa.
What are some of the challenges you faced there as an ecologically and socially aware design professional?
We make use of local labour and materials whenever possible, and we also do probono work for some companies, with the aim of uplifting certain communities. We are involved in some local initiatives too, such as Rock Girl and Santa Shoebox.
Who are your clients?
Design is such a wide spectrum. We have done projects for clients that vary from fitting out high-end catamarans to all types of offices and residences.
Do you have a favourite project?
No, I don’t. I feel that all of our projects are unique in their own way.
What is next for you and Inhouse? Could you give us a sneak preview of your ongoing or upcoming projects?
We would like to continue to grow Inhouse, and perhaps put down some roots overseas. I can’t go into detail at the moment, but we are working on some exciting projects, both internationally and locally.