Architects Directory 2020: Frankie Pappas, South Africa

Architects Directory 2020: Frankie Pappas, South Africa

Established in 2019 by a group of like-minded architects and designers in Johannesburg, Frankie Pappas is a ‘collection of brilliant young minds that do away with personal egotisms in order to better find remarkable solutions to fascinating problems,’ explain the founders – who prefer to remain anonymous. Following the mantra ‘wonderfully similar, beautifully different’, the collective has completed various residential projects, including the sculptural brick volumes of House of the Big Arch in Waterberg.



How best to sensitively and spectacularly introduce a newly constructed home to a wild South African forest? For Johannesburg-based outfit Frankie Pappas the solution was as follows... 

Design House of the Big Arch with a frontage like a vertiginous tree trunk and organise the project as one long, thin (just 330cm wide) building so as not to interfere with any existing sylvan activity. Employ weathered-looking, bark-toned, rough stock brick, which will both reference and complement the sandstone of the Waterberg Mountains in the surrounding bushveld nature reserve. Then add a raised living space reaching high up into the tree canopy and plant its roof with endemic grasses, succulents and shrubs.

Most importantly, make sure that ​not a single tree has to be demolished during the process. Has the Frankie Pappas team just invented a new architectural style called ‘Arboreal’?

Maverick, experimental and ecologically responsible, Frankie Pappas is self-styled not as a conventional architectural practice but a freeform group, ‘fictional persona’ and ‘collective pseudonym’ that encourages coders, engineers, mathematicians, artists and managers to work with draughtsmen. Its mission? ‘Pave the way with yellow bricks and break out the pixie dust’ to make remarkable spaces and places that ‘people write songs about’. 

Since it began work back in 2012 competed works have included a similarly camouflaged and petrified House of the Tall Chimneys and the more urban, House of the Yellow Wall apartment in a converted, 1950s Cape Town police barracks but the company’s House of the Big Arch is the Frankie Pappas aesthetic at its most imaginative, deferential and disciplined.  

‘It is a home that disappears into the landscape; ​that sits amongst the rocks and trees and birds; that offers animals and plants and humans equal opportunity to find shelter, that treats the bushveld with its deserved respect,’ say the designers. ‘We cannot ever divide architecture, landscape and gardening. They are one.’ §

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