• ArchiDATUM Dates: Paragon's Henning Rasmuss on Pouring Concrete in Africa

This week archiDATUM Dates Henning Rasmuss, a highly gregarious South African architect at the helm of Paragon Group. Henning tells us what he thinks about sustainable design and what the modern architect has come to stand for, the role of an architect should be in society, what it’s like pouring concrete in Africa and his long standing love with the pen and paper, not to leave out his strongly worded opinion on consistency and value within the practice. 
"We don’t subscribe to an architectural design standard. We do however attempt to retain a consistent approach to design quality and value engineering for our clients irrespective of location." he told us.

Read more on the interview as interpreted by Hugh Fraser, Media Manager for Paragon Group. 

1. In one sentence, describe your attributes
A determined, tenacious and intrepid African traveler. 

2. In another sentence, describe Paragon group.
Paragon Group is a young design practice with enough local experience, a portfolio to match, and with a hunger to explore the rest of Africa. 

3. Your firm has been at the forefront of sustainable design, but this isn't the sustainability that is known to most part of Africa. 
Sustainable design should be a universal endeavor. South Africa is possibly just a little ahead of the curve but it is a mindset that will find favor on the entire continent. We have been fortunate to receive early support from our clients including Zenprop (Alexander Forbes) to the extent that almost all our project are either Green Star rated, or based on sustainable principles. 

4. Do you believe Africa as a continent is coming of age in architectural language?
As Africa matures in the post colonial era and the power of the Diapora finds traction across the continent, we believe that clients are becoming more discerning and this supports and evolution of architecture in Africa. 

5. You have been at the forefront of architecture publications with several books including the recent Cape Town Stadium publication, what drives you to write and what is the resultant impact?
Henning has strong opinions on most subjects. Writing is a channel which gives him an outlet to express his ideas on architecture, society and the built environment. 

6. Contemporary architecture. An overstated term or an existing significance? What does this mean to you? And with the new global offices, especially with the Kenyan office in plan, what architectural standard are you looking to progress through the continent?
We don’t subscribe to an architectural design standard. We do however attempt to retain a consistent approach to design quality and value engineering for our clients irrespective of location. 

7. With that in mind, what is the style at Paragon an how does this shape the landscape?
We value engineer our projects to achieve a design and a site response for our projects across the continent. 

8. Like law and politics, do you believe Architecture has the power to shape policies? If so what is the way forward?
Architecture has a huge contribution to make towards the fabric of our cities. Buildings and cities must respond to the way humans live. We all enjoy the same qualities of human interaction on the street. 

9. In a continent where most of our inspiration is taken from Western scopes, are we doing enough to set our own path, if there is such a thing
Architecture does not exist in a vacuum. It reflects and is supported by the society which hosts it. Africa is still evolving politically with democracies maturing. This offers hope for the future. With this in mind we expect architecture to respond to our evolving societies.

10. Favorite architect?
Vilanova Artigas (Deceased) Renzo Piano (Living)

11. Favorite human being?
Doris Lessing (Deceased) Leonard Cohen (Living)

12. Parting shot?
Yes, please!


  • Nettleton 195 / SAOTA

  • Our client purchased the site, after we had completed an initial Design Concept for the previous property owner. Our client loved the design, and the visual direction the home was going, and accordingly shaped his brief around the design he saw.

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