Each month, Leading Architecture puts the spotlight on an industry leader. This month we speak to Wikus Celliers of Architects Celliers Greyvenstein
Q Tell us about your background.
I was born and raised in Pietersburg – now known as Polokwane. I started my primary education in Pietersburg, and secondary education in Johannesburg. After I matriculated, I enrolled for compulsory Military Training Service for one year.
Q Where did you study and what qualifications did you receive?
I started my studies in architecture at the University of Pretoria and completed DipArch at the University of Free State. I became a member of the Royal British Institute of Architects and I am a member of the Pretoria Institute of Architects, the South African Institute of Architects and the South African Council of Architects
I am one of the two practicing directors of ACG, i.e. Architects Celliers Greyvenstein. I am based at the head office, ACG-Gauteng in Pretoria, and Frans Greyvenstein (co-director) is based at ACG-Limpopo in Pietersburg. We have associate offices in Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Paarl.
Q How did you get involved in architecture?
I believe that my ‘involvement’ in architecture started through my interest in arts and culture, when I started playing the violin as a youngster. I was privileged to be taught by maestro Pierre de Grootte. Not only is playing the violin, piano, guitar and harmonica a great part of my ‘relaxing ritual’ after a busy day or schedule – even while, and when, performing as a group musicians – but music, and mostly classical music, always had, and still has, a calming, but also an inspiring and creative effect on me.
Since school days I set my eye, my mind and my heart on architecture. It was during my 8th grade that I finally knew that I wanted to become an architect. I started working in an architect’s office during the school holidays in the 10th grade – doing odd jobs like deliveries and making plots and prints. I gained experience and learned a lot by being in the right environment and by observing. I never hesitated or had second thoughts about what I wanted to be when I finished school. And after accomplishing this ideal, and being in practise for more than 40 years, my work as an architect remains a ‘hobby’ and ‘lifestyle’, which has no working or office hours. Even holidays are not ‘perfect’ if I cannot take work along!
As most young boys, sport too – mainly rugby, tennis, golf and squash – played a very important part in my life. I played first league tennis during my Military Service training and played golf as a student. Through playing sport, as well as attending games/events or watching on television, my attention was drawn to the stadia and sporting facilities. Just after I qualified, and was faced with my first big challenge – being appointed as architect for the new Ellis Park Rugby Stadium – I, an ‘aspiring’ young architect, focused on travelling overseas, visiting the latest and most successful stadia and training facilities in Europe and the United States of America. Ever since, I have been almost ‘obsessed’ with stadium architecture. I believe this experience must have ‘driven’ me and shaped my future as an architect with an ever increasing interest in creating/designing the best possible stadia and sporting and training facilities for the sports men and women in South Africa.
Q What about South African architecture inspires you?
It is rather difficult to define ‘South African’ architecture. Cape Dutch, Tuscan, Spanish etc, all relate back to other countries. SA character/architecture is becoming more and more noticeable in residential projects. True and typical examples can be seen in the small traditional and ethnic villages – typical Zulu huts or mud houses with colourful painted ethnic borders and reed or thatch-roofs, or small galvanised/corrugated houses, as well as the ‘Out of Africa’ farm/homesteads with stoops. More recent examples are the thatch-roof chalets and reed ceilings as seen at most wildlife resorts and estates.
With commercial projects, as in stadium planning, one could see the old corrugated pavilion of Ellis Park as ‘typical SA Architecture’. But intensive research was done overseas and the latest concepts introduced in SA stadia – i.e. private suites at Loftus Versveld during the 70s – which were implemented at Ellis Park and became the basis to finance a stadium. With the ‘New SA’, a new era dawned. This can be translated to a new dimension in SA Architecture, i.e. the new Nelspruit Stadium where huge ‘giraffe-shaped’ structures are used, and the ‘calabash-shape’ stadium in Johannesburg which can also be seen as ‘typical’ SA architectural footprint.
Q Do you think SA architects provide their clients with a good service?
I do believe that our architects are qualified and capable of provideing their clients with good professional service. There are many successful stadia and other prominent projects to prove that.
Q What has been your favourite project to date?
This is difficult… With Ellis Park being the first big appointment and challenge in my career, it will always be a ‘favourite’. But being involved with putting the original 2010 Bid Book together, and eventually being part of the appointed professional team to upgrade the Free State Stadium, as well as the new Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit, it is difficult to select one single project as a favourite.
Q What existing project do you wish you could have been involved in?
I would have felt blessed, and proud, as any other South African architect would have been, to have been appointed as architect to design any of the other new stadia for the 2010 World Cup which were ‘entrusted’ to overseas architects.
Q What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the Free State Stadium, the new Mbombela Stadium, Makhulong and Vosloorus Stadia, SuperSport Park Cricket Stadium, Seisa Ramabodu Stadium Training Facility, Botshabelo Stadium Training Facility, Fezile Dabi Stadium, Legola Eco Estate and Winnie Mandela Museum.
Q Where do you see architecture going in the next decade?
I believe that the 2010 World Cup will not only boost the tourism industry in the next year, but it will have a definite impact on architecture in South Africa in spite of the worldwide financial crisis. Apart from all the sporting facilities and accommodation needed for the World Cup for players and fans from all over the world, more and better beach front facilities and accommodation, as well as game and wildlife facilities and accommodation are needed.