Tristan Du Plessis, an award-winning interior architect, discusses how collaborating with global creatives leads to the fusion of art and design.
As a self-taught interior architect from Johannesburg, affectionately known as ‘Jozi,’ one of the first things I learned was the power of connection. A few pivotal collaborations and relationships have fundamentally shaped my career, instilling in me a deep respect for the creative community and cross-disciplinary thinking. Many designers will agree that they gravitate toward a specific type of project; hospitality is what I keep coming back to – not only because of the sheer scale of the projects, but also because of the opportunity to collaborate with fellow South Africans in a global context.
Collaboration plays a central role in how I’d like to be seen as a designer; bringing people into a project and engaging a team, not making it solely about me. As a designer based in South Africa, you’re far removed from the ‘design capitals’ of the world, but this separateness also creates a level of freedom – to incubate new ideas and introduce them to the international market. It also forces us (as creatives in the greater sense) to think über innovatively to pull off a world-class product.
I think what’s happening in this era of design is reflective of the deep curiosity that drives creatives. Hospitality design requires a level of pure functionality that other disciplines let you be more flexible with, which creates a challenge in terms of incorporating beauty without making it altogether overwhelming. Collaborating with fellow creatives who have a deep understanding of your overarching vision while bringing their own wholly unique perspectives enables spaces to have varying degrees of impact and to resonate with a much larger audience. This satisfies a fundamental interest I’ve always had in how spaces affect people emotionally.
As designers, there is always the challenge of pushing the boundaries of your abilities while creating a distinctive signature that makes each of your projects interconnected to truly stand out. Entering the design space, I was aware of the monolithic perception of what South African design should look like and I actively seek to bring an entirely new perspective to the world. But, I knew early on that this is simply not possible alone, hence I cultivated relationships with a range of artists from Jana + Koos, David Brits, Jake Singer to Jade Paton which brings South Africa to the world.
Each designer has projects that are close to their heart but Gorgeous George, a Design Hotel in the heart of Cape Town, South Africa is a project that for me epitomizes the modern relationship between art and design. A creatively collaborative model that stepped away from considering art as a finishing touch, it rather incorporated artistic flair at each touchpoint from an entryway centerpiece crafted out of Lucie De Moyencourt tiles to the hand-muralled swimming pool by David Brits. Even if the building were to be stripped back to its bones, it is now defined by the collaboration of all the artisans that came together to complete it.
In the same vein, SAN Beach club, in the heart of Dubai, truly celebrates African design from the materials to the architecture and inclusion of contemporary South African artists. The approach to the project was understanding the incredibly luxurious and beautiful setting of the landscape and bringing in South African artists to highlight the space itself rather than detract, which is how we ended up with an incredible statement-making beach sculpture made by the artist Jake Singer, ceramic outdoor tables handmade in Cape Town, Lamps by Jan Ernst, sculptural pots by Jade Paton and a sculptural bench from David Krynauw.
Globalism may be the catalyst that brings today’s designers and artists together, but their synergistic relationship will live on in perpetuity. These creatives share a fundamental desire to capture a mood and moment, whether physically or visually, and it is this desire that shapes our neighbourhoods, cities, and the world.