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Meet the Judges - Pieter Mathews, 2019


Pieter Mathews is the Principal Architect at Mathews & Associates Architects, based in Hazelwood, Pretoria. His firm was responsible for curating the South African Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2016 and recently completed the striking Javett Art Centre at UP in Pretoria, which shows an innovative use of concrete. He has won numerous awards and merit awards, and we are honoured to have him as an Architecture Category judge for 2019.

We asked Pieter to share his thoughts with us…

PPC Imaginarium

1) What are looking forward to about your experience as a judge?

I see this as an opportunity to learn from peers and entrants alike, by exposing myself to new ways of thinking. My previous experience judging other competitions has taught me the value of judging alongside other panelists, and the judging in itself is challenging, especially as participants underestimate their  contributions to the discipline of architecture, even if they do not win.


2) What themes do you think will emerge in this year's PPC Imaginarium Awards?

I am an optimist and must commend the PPC Imaginarium Awards for a very tough and topical architecture brief. In the modes of contradiction and difference, one is forced to find and look for creative outcomes and solutions.

The younger generation are not scared and dont shy away from topics like gender, sex, race, xenophobia... etc. Self-expression, I expect, should form part of the outcomes... But let’s see.


3) How do you think young artists can gauge their success in the industry?

I believe in keeping to the  basics when trying to finds one’s own voice, stamp or imprint. It is extremely difficult to gauge one’s success - but being a finalist or shortlisted for a fine competition like the PPC Imaginarium Awards always helps. My mantra is never compare yourself to others and try to find your own intrigue and niche.


4) What are you looking for as a judge?

Aha Moments! Like: “Why have I never thought about that solution?” And it is usually the simplest solution. But ironically, mastering simplicity is a complex affair. I like to “go for the jugular” and believe that students should experiment, push boundaries and have fun. The real world is much too restrictive.


5) Please tell us a little about your own career and how this experience is relevant to the PPCImaginarium Awards and your role as a judge?

I am a practicing architect with a very keen interest in art and design. I have recently handed in my masters dissertation in Architecture at UFS, with the title: The Spatial Act of Curation. How the Intersectional Spatial Relationship Between Place and Artwork Unlocks Meaning. So yip, I am also going to be judged in March!

This would be the first practice-based Architecture degree in South Africa and possibly Africa. I also had the priviledge to act as official curator for the South African architectural pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2016 with the theme “reporting from the front” where I was fortunate to meet architectural greats like Alejandro Aravena and Rem Koolhaas.


6) What tip/s would you give to someone just starting out in their career.

Take on fewer clients and serve them better, and stay away from people who promise you exposure in return for work (read: risk work). Be effficient and don’t shy away from asking your peers to crit your work harshly. Document everything well and use social media very cleverly, but never over-post. Just do your best and enjoy.


7) What does innovation mean to you?

Innovation, to me, means to make do with what you have or what is readily available and use it in an unconventional way. This was my unique selling point more than 25 years ago when we started our practice and which eventually led to two published books, Architexture and Detail House, which both sold out.


Photo Credit: Carla Crafford

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