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Meet the Judges – Heidi Boulanger, 2018

Award-winning architect Heidi Boulanger shares her views on the architecture industry and judging the PPC Imaginarium Award for Architecture.


  • Throughout your career, you have been active in the pursuit of sustainable design solutions, and in 2017 you won first prize at the LafargeHolcim Awards for Sustainable Architecture. What would you say has been the highlight of your career?

I’ve been fortunate to experience many highlights in a relatively short career. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to Kenya, New York and Lebanon with my projects, and to meet great African architects like Diébédo Francis Kéré (Burkina Faso) and Joe Osae-Addo (Ghana). More recently, the PPC Imaginarium Awards granted me the privilege of working with Hermann Kamte (Cameroon), Enrique Browne (Chile) and Nadia Tromp (South Africa).


  • What projects/undertakings are you involved in currently?

In my professional work, I’m currently busy with the construction of a new school that aims to redefine education for the 21st century – a truly exciting project! I’m also busy researching alternative masonry industries and communities for an academic project.


  • Who (or what) inspires you as an architect?

I’m very much inspired by sustainable, regional and tactile design – it really is possible to create beauty while being kind to the earth. I love architecture that uses nature as a ‘material’ in design; vegetation, light and natural materials such as rammed earth, stone and wood tend to create amazing buildings.

My design heroes include Geoffrey Bawa, Diébédo Francis Kéré and Studio Mumbai, among others.


  • What are the main challenges new architects face when entering the local architecture industry?

It’s very hard to convince clients to spend money on design; it is often a greater upfront cost, and the value (both economic and otherwise) is often only experienced long after the building is complete. There’s a huge trust factor required in the client-architect relationship, and that often doesn’t exist when you’re new to the industry.


  • What is your impression of the local architecture industry?

I feel that South Africa has incredible potential to establish its own inherently African language – to create ‘Afro-futuristic’ buildings that speak of the time and the place, and of our many diverse cultures. I’m excited for the next generation of young architects to challenge the status quo and to push the boundaries of the current industry, which at times feels somewhat conservative in its approach to design.

PPC Imaginarium

  • What role can a platform like the PPC Imaginarium Award for Architecture play in nurturing the next generation of local architects?

I feel we need to educate the public more on architecture and sustainable design – to cultivate a greater understanding and appreciation of good buildings. Competitions like the PPC Imaginarium Awards are a great platform for this: it gives young architects amazing exposure and motivation.


  • What was your impression of the entries of the 2018 PPC Imaginarium Award for Architecture?

There were many inspiring projects that addressed diverse programmes and complex contexts. The judges had a hard time deciding on the winners – we debated some projects for hours! In the end, the decision was unanimous, and I believe we chose projects that answered the issue of memory and resilience sensitively and maturely. The entries this year set a high standard for future competitions.


  • What advice do you have for future entrants of the PPC Imaginarium Award for Architecture?

Go for it! It’s an amazing opportunity to challenge yourself to create sustainable, sensitive spaces. 

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