Architects and Builders

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If you think our house is as beautiful as we do, you may want to know who designed it and who built it. Finally, after months of agonising waiting, I am going to tell you.

Let me say first off that finding the right people to handle these two tasks (really three if you include building/project management) was the single biggest reason we didn’t go completely insane on this project. Overall we feel happy and like we got what we wanted. And that’s largely down to two contractors.

Architecture

Our architect is Andy Kriek from Modelink (he is, in fact, Modelink). Andy was recommended by a friend who has a beautiful house on Kensington Ridge and we just loved his approach.

Andy’s designs are characterised – and we’ve seen a few of them now – by a lot of glass and steel, and concrete. But within this he also has a way of creating interesting spaces within the home, and carefully working out how you will move between these spaces. The result are homes that feel wide open to the outside world but cosy and intimate at the same time.

Andy handles the entire project which includes taking a brief and imagining it into 2- and 3D images; getting all plans approved; dealing with the structural engineer, as well as recommending a host of excellent contractors. He takes on responsibility for delivering the whole project, including liaising with contractors we picked.

For an architect to take this amount of interest in, and responsibility for, a project is unusual. It avoids having to hire a separate project manager or building manager, and he is super-open to working with you on a frequent basis to make sure things work out the way you’d hoped.

He’s also a genuinely nice, intuitive and dedicated person, and a pleasure to work with.

If there are negatives they centre on his rather loose grasp of the financials of the project. Whether it’s optimism or enthusiasm, his cost estimates were wild underestimates and – as with any creative person – it’s best to double-check these kinds of things with someone more realistic.

Modelink/Andy Kriek: (011) 7265271

 

Building

Many of the horror stories from building projects involve the builder themselves. No surprises there considering these are the people responsible for making the theory into reality.

The truth about building in South Africa is that most of the people doing the work are paid low wages and have learned their skill on the job. Building costs are actually one of the smaller items on your overall budget, ironically, thanks to the low cost of labour in South Africa.

No surprises then that this can be a hit-or-miss affair. Contact names for “a great builder” are passed around like your bobba’s recipe for chicken soup.

Well I can, happily, add a name to that list. We used Tight Brick Builders – recommended by our architect – and I can only describe them as excellent. Exacting, committed, patient and with a relentlessly positive attitude in the face of the usual building dramas, I can honestly say these are the good guys.

Norman – who owns the company – really loves the projects he works on, and frequently fixed things before we even noticed them. His instruction to us that whatever we were unhappy with they are happy to fix was tested on numerous occasions – and they always came through.

No builder is perfect. Wandering through the mosques of Turkey or the cathedrals in Europe you would be forgiven for thinking: if that’s what people could do with their bare hands and simple tools hundreds of years ago, imagine what perfection they could attain today. Sadly this is not the case and my house, much as I love it, will be a pile of dust long before the Hagia Sofia or even the Great Pyramid.

I see many small things that are skew or scratched or slightly sagging (wall, tiles and ceiling, respectively) but these are minor, and inescapable, defects. Overall I am delighted with the workmanship and commitment shown by Norman and his team and I’d highly recommend them.

Tight Brick Builders – (083) 7265813

Word to the wise – and I’ll write a whole post about this soon – your biggest variable is the cost of materials, including glass, steel etc. In any future building project I would spend a lot more time interrogating the quoted quantities of these with both architect and builder.

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