Brothers in law Erik Janse van Rensburg and Eric van den Berg launched Wauw Architectural and Urban Workshop in 2013. Their aim for the business: To grow a thriving and sustainable platform to provide a nurturing environment for critically acclaimed design.
Erik had previously worked at MLB Architects for six years under Xico Meirelles and grew steadily into the project architect and team leader role, taking on and successfully completing numerous projects ranging from upmarket residential and retail to education.
Eric had been a junior architect at various companies in Cape Town and London. In 2009 he worked at ARC as design architect on various residential and commercial projects and then joined Designline as a project architect for Virgin Active on projects including VA Soweto, VA Balfour Park and VA Sunny Park.
In 2012, Eric decided to go it alone but soon joined forces with the other Erik at Wauw. Fellow UCT architectural alumnus, Jacques van Embden, had approached Erik in 2013 with the idea to launch a curated living urban brand. Erik and Eric jumped at the opportunity, and established WAUW initially to service Blok as their only client.
The Blok concept immediately appealed to a young, modern market in Cape Town. The designs are not only trendy, contemporary and mindful of the modern lifestyle, Blok has already come up with a game changing virtual reality app for their sales force and promises more innovative tools that the two Eric/ks say is setting a new property industry standard.
BLOK has also partnered with Future Cape Town on an initiative to improve areas on the Atlantic Seaboard that are beyond the existing or planned property developments and contribute to the urban fabric through community activation. The goal is to encourage residents to see surrounding public open spaces as an extension of their homes, and take ownership of them.
We spoke to the two Eric/ks about life on the Blok:
What appealed to you about the Blok concept?
The most appealing concept about Blok is that we are not only trying to build buildings but also communities and a more sustainable way of living. There is a much greater picture in mind that stretches beyond that of just the building. There is an understanding that when you buy an apartment, you are buying into a community and that the apartment Blok is a vessel to enhance this greater experience.
Why is this concept working so well in Cape Town?
Cape Town has been at the forefront of South African inner-city revitalisation and therefore it is becoming more and more desirable for people of all ages to live here. This combined with the tremendous growth in the Cape Town residential market, specifically in the Cape Town City Bowl and Eastern Seaboard, has created a perfect platform for Blok to plug into. Blok is helping people who conventionally would settle for suburbia to understand how an apartment can be a home and cater to all their conventional needs in a similar if not superior way. There is also a growing awareness among Capetonians that we need to be more responsible and look after our resources and that densification and sharing space is a step in the right direction.
Do you think consumers want to buy new and off plan instead of buying existing properties?
Not necessarily. We think people prefer being able to see what they are buying. Together with Blok, we go the extra mile in trying to show people what they are buying into. There is an exhibition space in Sea Point, an app with realistic interactive walkthroughs, 3D renders, detailed magazines and even scaffoldings on site so future homeowners can stand at the level of their apartment and experience the view.
What are the signature design features of your properties?
We try to treat each property uniquely and do what is appropriate and possible in that specific project – without forcing a specific design or concept. If there are signatures we hope to allow them to develop organically from positive experience. Signature features that have developed over the past few projects in our plan design include third spaces: Large balconies or entertainment decks and generous kitchens. We are also trying to implement more planting as design elements with planters and green walls. We try to optimise space without compromising beautiful design – something we call Thoughtful Design.
Which are your preferred materials?
Natural, modern, tactile. Concrete, steel and timber. But we are certainly open to expanding this palette if the project calls for it.
What are you working on right now?
We are working on our next project to be launched in September 2015. SEVENonS is an existing residential building in Seapoint East that will be transformed into a Blok apartment with 6 two bed apartments and two 3 bed penthouses.