Since its inception in 1997, the Paragon Group has always celebrated diversity and inclusivity, with just under half of its employees being women. “We have a passion for what we do, which translates into us being one of the leading architecture and interior architecture practices in South Africa,” Paragon Group Human Resources and Operations Director Cindy Faux comments.
Director Estelle Meiring, who is in charge of work acquisition and client liaison, as well as overseeing projects such as Paragon’s latest private-university project, has been shepherding the group’s latest venture in Cape Town, where it has opened a regional office at the Pavilion on the Waterfront. “At the Paragon Group, we are unaware of gender. It has always been like that, and it is fantastic,” she highlights.
This is largely due to the vision of founding directors Anthony Orelowitz and Henning Rasmuss. “Neither race nor gender has ever been in the spotlight. It is all about the work, and how we deliver the best solutions for our clients. Our achievements in this regard are relative to us being a small practice. This means we are innovative and progressive, and also have an impact on the broader design and construction industry,” Cindy notes.
An example of this passion is Antoinette Kloppers, progressing to Senior Project Architectural Technologist, Head of Building Regulations, and Pod Leader in the six years she has been at Paragon. Antoinette has a passion for accessibility in architecture, with her daughter having a hearing impairment. She enthusiastically creates awareness about the rights of persons with disabilities, and has presented numerous talks on the topic.
Currently studying arbitration, she hopes to express her passion for legality and compliance even further in the industry. Antoinette recently completed the Hatfield Square mixed-use student accommodation project in Pretoria for owner and developer Respublica and Redefine, has worked on Sasol Place in Katherine Street, and is currently working on a major private-university project.
Antoinette explains that she was brought up by an inspirationally-strong woman. She strives to set the same example to her own daughter, in that she not only has the right, but the ability, to excel in whatever she pursues, and that gender, race, and disability are not defining factors in her successes.
Project Architect Leanie van Brummen has been with Paragon for 11 years, during which time she has seen the company transform from under 40 employees to over 100 at present. “Working for Paragon has been an incredible journey in terms of personal growth and transformation,” she highlights.
Leanie began her career with the Paragon Interface division, and after five years switched over to Paragon Architects. “Working on various projects for both divisions has given me a unique insight and opportunity to see Paragon in all of its facets,” she adds. Leanie has worked on some of the group’s most distinctive projects to date, including the awarding-winning 11 Alice Lane Phase 2 and 3 in Sandton, and the soon-to be-completed 144 Oxford.
While the architects are responsible for Paragon’s award-winning designs, it is Junior Visualisation Artist Ashna Premji and Visualisation Artist Jess McClelland who are responsible for critical design elements such as renders and 3D animations.
Ashna, in particular, represents the multi-skilling that Paragon employees are well-known for. “Having had a great support structure where I was pushed to believe I could be anything I wanted to be, today I am a qualified Interior Architect and Graphic Designer, working in a well-driven and talented team of three at a multi award-winning company. Considering I have only been in the industry for a year, I have had the huge honor to have been given exposure to some amazing projects internationally and locally.”
While Jess is an Interior Architect by trade, she has focused on the visualisation aspect since 2015. “I have been very privileged to have worked on some of the Paragon Group’s biggest projects to date, for example 144 Oxford Road. I absolutely love what I do, and even though the visualisation industry is predominantly male-dominated, women are making a big mark.”
Architect Katrin Tenim started out as a student in 2014, ending up full-time at Paragon Architects in 2017, where she successfully led a design team in her first year that produced many design proposals. Some of these have been completed, while others are in the process of being built. Exciting up-and-coming projects that Katrin is working on include a university in Kwa-Zulu Natal, as well as the first-of-a-kind design project in the Cradle of Humankind.
Growing up with three brothers, Katrin has always had the mindset of being able to do anything you set your mind to. “The skill of being an architect in designing the spaces that shape the future is what I am passionate about,” she elaborates.
While Candidate Architectural Technologist Kirti Mistry says she “had no idea what I would have liked to be, my father encouraged me to pursue a career in the field of architecture, and since then I have not looked back.”
Kirti comes from a conservative background where men are perceived to be the breadwinners, and women the glue of the household. “It wasn’t particularly encouraged for women to have careers, especially in the built environment.” Currently Kirti is working for Paragon Architects South Africa on various projects, including a pharmaceutical warehouse, student housing, and office precincts.
“Today it makes me proud that my family supports my decision to be in the working environment, and to keep growing. My message to all young women out there is to challenge the stigmatism of architecture, and make a positive impact on Southern Africa. As diverse and multi-dimensional as we are, we as women most certainly possess the ability and capability to be more than we can imagine,” Kirti stresses.
Architect Kate Harris, having just completed her candidacy, is excited to be a part of a new wave of women in architecture. Working alongside Alex Slaviero, they form an all-women team in Paragon, taking on leadership in an exciting new development called 52 Katherine Street in Sandton.
“It’s a new dawn for women in the building industry, whereby we can take on significant leadership roles within a project, and expect our voices to be heard.” Kate also believes that women hold a legitimate place in planning and collaborating within projects, bringing a unique perspective to the spaces that the Paragon Group creates for people.