On the Couch with Charles Taylor
My first encounter with the work of Ballito based architect, Charles Taylor, was walking into the Simbithi Estate Clubhouse on a “trawling expedition” for Hot Dip Galvanizing Awards entries. The building, seemingly inconspicuous from the parking lot, took my breath away when I walked into the lobby. The intricate Hot Dip Galvanizing and wooden roof structure that canopies the sweeping staircase that leads into the central courtyard, almost made me lose my footing. I knew then and there that I was seeing the work of a disciple of the coating. We caught up with Charles Taylor, Architect, Hot Dip Galvanizing Devotee and Family Man.
How did you get into the field of architecture? I had thought of this career path at school, but the deal clincher was visiting and architects office and seeing all the models and visuals.
Please elaborate a little on your education? I had studied in Port Elizabeth, where I also worked for 2 years. This was followed by a year in London. Upon my return I started my own practice in 1994.
Do you have any role models in the field of architecture that have inspired you? Over the years – Luigi Nervi, Lloyd Wright & Glenn Murcutt.
You are known to be a staunch supporter of HDG. Is this support borne out of the fact that you live and work on the coast? Hot Dip Galvanizing is the responsible thing to do at the coast, regardless of painting or leaving it in its natural state – I prefer the latter.
Please tell us about your choice of establishing yourself and your practice on the North Coast as opposed to say Durban? This happened in 2000 due to family reasons and also to open a second office as I originally established my practice in Zululand).
Why do you like the HDG coating? (You have been known to prefer leaving the coating intact, instead of duplex coating it.) HDG has a “silver lining” that in my opinion adds an aesthetic value to a structure. It is not dominant but frames materials and highlights structure. It also changes with time and whether it is shiny or matt grey it is appealing.
Structural steel using a Hot Dip Galvanized coating in a residential application is rarely seen. South Africans in general, still seem to prefer the conventional brick and mortar structures. What are your thoughts on the matter? Structural steel is a great material – it is ancient yet modern, recyclable, shimmers in the light, provides an ordered and square structure, often utilized in framed structures like boating, aero planes, conservatories, bridges etc, can handle long spans, very easy to fix onto with other materials etc.
Do you think that truly South African architecture exists or do you think that people still look to other countries for style guides? In my opinion, architecture should firstly be a site responsive solution (wherever you are in the globe). Therefore it stands to reason that SA should have different type architecture to other countries and even within SA regionally there should be major differences due to climate and topography. After the “responsive” architecture, one can either leave it at that (a modernist type approach) or develop imagery that has historical links such as barn-like farm buildings, verandah cottages, etc.
In your career, which projects that you were involved in stand out as highlights?
More recent favourite projects include: Simbithi Clubhouse; House Bailes & House Taylor
Please tell us about a certain fully HDG residential wonder currently being erected in Ballito? (reference to Charles’ own residence – a fully Hot Dip Galvanized structure currently being built) We bought the property on a public auction in 2003. The 1 acre site was previously the first water reservoir for Ballito from the 1960’s and as a result is a naturally high point with dramatic views. Now 7 years later we are fortunate to be building the dream house.
Please tell us a little about your family? I was married in 1990 and we have been blessed with four children aged 15,12,10 & 7
Please share your hobbies and passions. I love sketching; Coffee with my misses ( double espresso with a touch of milk); Studying good buildings on walkabouts (local & overseas); The Bible;
Red wine (shiraz) and good food. Other passions include running on the beach; photography &
Internet companies (I was previously involved with www.privateproperty.co.za mapping solutions and a home improvements portal). But honestly architecture generally – sometimes can’t sleep at night with ideas.
When Charles Taylor goes home...The kids take over. Family life is key – all the rest passes away. Once the house is quiet then I am generally designing.
By Desere Strydom for Hot Dip Galvanizing Today – 2010
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