Weathering the storm – dhk thinkspace looks recession-proof

While all industries suffered the effects of the global recessionary impact, the architectural industry and its allied interior sector are often seen as a measure of economic effect, experiencing highs and lows in parallel with the broader economy. Based in Cape Town and Johannesburg, dhk thinkspace is becoming a major player in Gauteng. By successfully extending their reach, dhk thinkspace has managed to ‘buck the trend’ by minimising the impact of the recession on its niche commercial interior architecture business.

“Naturally, the pie has become smaller from a business point of view,” says Trevor Shapiro, Managing Director of dhk thinkspace. “This has meant that many [interior architecture] practices have been forced to retrench staff which has led to smaller, and even one-person studios springing up that can offer services for lower fees by having lower overheads. Of course clients have smaller budgets, but we see that as a positive challenge.”

Another major challenge resulting from the recession has been to provide green solutions to clients with ever- shrinking budgets. “However, lower budgets and stiffer competition has also forced the cream to the top in our industry,” he says.

Part of the larger dhk Group, dhk thinkspace has built a reputation for quality design and reliability. It is this commitment to quality that Shapiro credits for the success of the firm in trying times. “By maintaining high standards in design, as well as project management, dhk thinkspace has maintained and grown its relationships with many existing clients. In difficult times many corporate companies are more risk-averse than ever and understand that paying fees to a reliable and talented team, with depth, is a way of ensuring a risk-free world class outcome,” he says.

Where other firms have seen shrinking client bases, dhk thinkspace has significantly grown its national and international presence in the past two years. “Our Johannesburg studio is now well established and is consistently winning new business, as we have done for many years in Cape Town,” Shapiro says. Major projects include the 11000m2 Cell C contact centre in Parktown and the Plantation Club Kempinski resort in the Seychelles. “We have also shown that we are able to successfully and seamlessly work with major architectural firms, including dhk architects,” he notes.

Thinkspace’s quality designs have not gone unnoticed, with Western Cape Premier and Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille complimenting the firm on a job well done at the opening of the Everything Everywhere call centre in Woodstock in June this year. According to the Premier’s office, the call centre’s establishment is the result of a partnership between the UK’s largest mobile network operator, Everything Everywhere, and Merchants, a subsidiary of Dimension Data, and represents a significant investment in the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector in the Western Cape.

Shapiro is confident that dhk thinkspace will continue on this path successfully. “The BPO sector, including contact centres, as well as the corporate sector, will continue to be among the areas of our expertise and focus going forward.” he says.

“Our recent completion of top end hospitality and leisure work, including the Planet Restaurant at the Mount Nelson Hotel and the Kempinski , means that further doors will open for us in that market too,” Shapiro says. “We aim to strengthen our relationships with our existing client base even more, which will enable us to provide additional services to our clients, such as being involved very early in the decision-making process and also to provide pro-active input throughout the life of our installations, rather than just handing over and moving on.”Visit


About Thinkspace

dhk thinkspace, founded in 1992, has come from a solid background of project management and commercial interior architecture. The aim is to produce credible design solutions coupled with a highly effective project management and cost control system. This total solution service initially filled a gap in the industry with constant leading edge design solutions. It is for these reasons that dhk thinkspace has gained the reputation in the industry for producing quality work and highly efficient project management.

About the Everything Everywhere project

The brief was to design a contact centre for a Merchants client – Everything Everywhere – that was adaptable in the likely event of a re-branding exercise. Emphasis was placed on interaction spaces, recreation and play areas as part of staff motivation alongside displays of acknowledgement of staff achievements.

The foundation of the design approach rested on staff appreciation and functionality with a visual link to the UK. The conceptual design was based on an independent colour scheme rather than the current brand manual. The

rainbow served as a colour guideline to dress columns and workstation clusters, while core values have been expressed in meeting and training rooms. Spaces flow seamlessly into one another and each area offers something unique as part of an overall design.

The UK feel was accentuated with the incorporation of Banksy (famous British street graffiti artist) inspired graffiti which was used as a medium to dress walls and to interlink spaces and branding. The space is fun, refreshing and practical, allowing staff to feel comfortable and energised while dealing with UK clientele.

About the Planet Restaurant

dhk thinkspace was tasked with re-vamping the existing Cape Colony Restaurant, with the aim of creating a fine dining experience that would be a sought-after destination for all. The Planet Restaurant is an addition to the very popular Planet Bar in its core design approach.

The approach retained the elegant classical architectural envelope that was in existence in the old Cape Colony, but gave it a fresh new look with a subtle palette of warm white hues. This forms a quiet backdrop that allows for the drama of the rest of the interior to unfold. Inspiration was drawn from the dynamic colours and patterns of far-off galaxies. The distinctiveness of this space is further enforced by bespoke lighting and furniture pieces that offer high comfort, elegance and add a sense of luxury.

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