South African architect and urban designer Henri Comrie did his country proud with an international award he won at the World Architecture Festival Awards held in Lisbon at the end of 2022, where he was the winner in the Educational Buildings Category based on his work on the Sol Plaatje University in Kimberley. The award was won against a field of finalists comprising some of the most established international names in the field (see reference link below).
Comrie is an urban design specialist and past British Commonwealth Scholar whose accolades and achievements include his role as lead urban designer for the Cape Town Stadium Precinct, followed by urban design led projects such as The Towers precinct in the Cape Town Foreshore and most recently by his key role at Devonbosch. According to Comrie, the Devonbosch development really is a very special project that stands out from others in his career. “I believe that Devonbosch is different from the vast majority of larger developments because the shareholders have been consistently championing the importance of the whole over the individual parts. I think that Devonbosch will be unique because people will be able to see for themselves the qualities in space within a reasonable time, rather than just relying on what the marketing brochures tell them,” says Comrie.
Comrie’s reputation as a designer comes from his ability to work effortlessly and imaginatively across scales, from single houses to entire precincts. When asking his peers, they will quickly tell you that what sets him apart from others in the industry is his strong strategic awareness in the fields of architecture and urban design, coupled with his ability to convey complex ideas in simple terms informed by his signature, free hand drawings. His dedication towards creating high quality, timeless spaces is a trademark of this talented South African architect. He now operates from London where he is urban design lead with the global public realm specialists Gillespies, but continues to remain involved in South African projects like Devonbosch through clients valuing the globally significant currency of his work.
When asked about the South African property industry’s position on a global scale, Comrie notes that short-termism and risk-driven involvement pose significant challenges. “Good urban design requires a medium-term outlook, which is often hindered by the volatility and high interest rates prevalent in the industry. Despite these challenges, I still believe that quality yields rewards, and I encourage others in the industry to keep believing in it too. I also think that it is beneficial to look to old parts of cities like Stellenbosch and Paris for inspiration because they are built around simple but often forgotten place making rules that talk to the soul,” Comrie adds.
To see Comrie’s work first hand in South Africa, or for further information on the unique mixed use precinct he designed in Stellenbosch, visit www.devonbosch.co.za.