Situated in the northern part of the Gauteng province, the city of Pretoria is affectionately known by locals as the
Jacaranda City thanks to the wealth of purple jacaranda trees blossoming along various streets, parks and gardens.
Slightly warmer than Johannesburg, Pretoria has a humid subtropical climate and experiences long hot, rainy summers and short cool to cold, dry winters.
Due to its diverse cultural influences over the years, Pretoria boasts a myriad of different architectural styles. Throughout the city and residential suburbs, one can encounter structures that range from 19th century Dutch, German and British Colonial architecture to modern, postmodern, neomodern (or neo-modernist), and even art deco styles. During the last few years, a good dose of uniquely South African style has also been included in Pretoria's architectural portfolio.
Some of the more well-known architectural structures in Pretoria include the late 19th century Palace of Justice, the varied buildings scattered across the main campuses of both the University of Pretoria and the University of South Africa (UNISA), and the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
It's easier to discern between an interior designer and an architect, as more people understand that architecture relates to the physical structure of a building and interior design focuses on the visual aesthetics of a structure's interior spaces. But once we start talking about interior architects, it can get confusing – how do these professionals relate to interior designers?
➣ Interior architecture
Interior architecture is a more scientific skill that requires formal education (a bachelor's degree in architecture, interior design, or a similar field is necessary for this profession, and previous experience as an interior architect is often required or preferred).
In their day-to-day jobs, interior architects work with building contractors and other subcontractors to design the harder, structural features of a building that determines how it will look and operate. Various elements are considered by interior architects, including the shapes and sizes of rooms, where windows and doors need to be placed, plumbing and heating, etc.
➣ Interior Design
Interior designers are more concerned with the look and feel of a room, as well as its more temporary features. After all the harder features of a building have been finalised by the architect and subcontractors, the interior designer will start his/her work. This professional relates to the furniture, colours, and textures of an interior design, but also takes into account the practicalities that help the space to function, such as lighting fixtures (electrical wiring), sinks and faucets (plumbing), etc.
➣ Working together
Interior architects and interior designers often work together, or at the very least consult with one another, in order to achieve the best final results for a project. By communicating open and honestly with each other, neither the physical architecture or the design/décor of a client's project are considered more important than the other – instead, they both join forces to translate into fantastic results.
As you enter into a conversation with a potential interior architect, remember that there are numerous things that need to be discussed (such as budget, timelines, etc.). However, don't discount these seldom-asked questions:
1. Why do you want to work on my project?
Don't assume that just because the professional has agreed to meet with you that they are interested in your project. Hopefully they are, but there are times when it may not be the case. Ask this question and let the interior architect's answer guide you. If they share your passion for this project, it might just be the start of a great working relationship.
2. How do you reconcile construction costs with your design?
This is something that all interior architects work on and is especially important in hot markets like Pretoria's. Construction costs are changing fast and how that process is explained, managed and mitigated will be key. Be aware of what process your interior architect will implement and make sure that your passion and excitement for future ideas don't unintentionally convince him/her that you have a secret budget.
3. Who from your firm will be working on my project and what will be their role?
No two firms necessarily work the same, and you'll want to know which individuals will head up your project. Depending on time schedules, it may not even by the professional you are currently interviewing – if this is the case, ensure that you meet the person who will take charge of your project sooner rather than later.
4. How do your fees work?
While some interior architects have set fee structures in place, other firms may have various options of how they expect their clients to pay. Ask for these options and get the details. Once you receive a contract, read every line and make sure you understand it all – get a lawyer to help you if necessary. Feel free to bring up fees at each meeting – you will be paying for the project, after all.
And always insist on a detailed invoice to see where your money is going.
5. What is an example of a situation that went poorly with a client and how did you resolve it?
It is a fact of life that things go wrong. The right steps for any professional firm to do in these cases would be to:
A) Ensue the client is taken care of or has their concerns addressed, and
B) Enact a policy, if necessary, to ensure that a lesson is learned and the mistake is not repeated.
No interior architect makes zero mistakes. If your potential candidate claims that they have never encountered an issue, take that as a warning sign.