Business & Industry Architects take street art indoors

Architects take street art indoors

(Port Elizabeth) – In a move to inject creativity into the corporate workspace, architectural firm SVA International has taken street art indoors – and in the process disrupted traditional boundaries between urban art and design.


URBAN DESIGN: SVA International architects (from left) Judy Cizek, Gordon Barnard and Zintle Ndyambo hard at work in the firm’s Port Elizabeth office. The graffiti-inspired mural in the background was created by local artist Steven “Joff” Carter.


The striking 12-metre artwork, which runs the length of the Eastern Cape headquarters’ open-plan office in Central, was created by local artist Steven “Joff” Carter, who is responsible for giving new life to abandoned structures around the city.

SVA International associate Ilse Danev said the work – created using spraypaint on wood – called to mind the colourful, heavy lettering of early graffiti styles typically seen on New York city streets. Danev said graffiti was often mistakenly associated only with “defacing” inner city buildings.

“Graffiti is also a form of self-expression through design and, in many ways, offers a new ‘face’ to old buildings, which is absolutely in line with our philosophy,” she said.

The Eastern Cape’s largest architectural firm has been steadily renovating its office space and building a new eye-catching entrance on the corner of Park Drive since relocating to Central in 2016.

“We believe in the urban renewal that is happening in the city and it’s important for us to collaborate with and be a part of the design community here. Joff has done some great work and we were very excited to have him involved with our project,” she said.

Danev said the firm had given the artist an open brief, with the only caveat being that it had to relate to the notion of “layers” as understood within the field of architecture.

“Our team have responded very positively to the finished artwork. It’s a unique backdrop that helps to inspire creativity and provides a pleasant visual ‘relief’ during long working hours.”

Carter said creating an artwork for a corporate workspace had been a challenge.

“There’s always something interesting about how people respond to and interact with art pieces. Introducing it to a large group of people, each with their own personal tastes, you hope to capture a feeling that allows everyone to be comfortable.”

He said people were beginning to respond much more positively to street art and engage with it than in previous years.

“It’s overwhelming the number of messages I receive when a street art piece is taken down. This shows me how many people interact with these pieces in their daily lives – and when replaced with a white wall there is a disconnection to their environment.”