BArch 1992 (Pretoria) - Final design title: Richards Bay Passenger Liner and Bus Terminal
Born and raised in Lichtenburg in South Africa's North West Province, the fourth of five children, to a geologist father and teacher mother. The family has its male lineage well documented, dating back to 1750, having amongst its forebears bankers, entrepreneurs, attorneys and carpenters. 'Techton', the carpentry works of his forebears can still be seen in the English city of Canterbury.
MATHEWS' siblings are also talented achievers: eldest brother Edward is a professor in mechanical engineering; sister Margaret is a professor in tax law; brother George is a quantity surveyor and project manager, and his youngest sister Susan holds a performing music degree.
In 1993, MATHEWS married his high school sweetheart, Almari Willmot. They have two sons: Gian Willmot born in 1997 and Kyle Edward born in 1999.
At nursery school, two of his closest friends, Eben van Rouendal and Francois Botha, were sons of the only two architects in the town Larry VAN ROUENDAL and Peet BOTHA. Both were graduates of the University of Pretoria and staunch Modernists. Some of the buildings created by the architecture practice are still classics in the North West Province town. While the name of the firm eventually changed to VAN ROUENDAL & BOSMAN, the mantra of form follows function remains firmly entrenched.
VAN ROUENDAL wrote that, as a child, MATHEWS' aptitude for architecture could be clearly seen as he played with special architect's building blocks. MATHEWS' nursery school reports all mention his creative aptitude and love of building and drawing. He started his formal schooling at Die Laerskool Lichtenburg, an Afrikaans school where his mother taught. She had a love for art and encouraged art and an appreciation of design in her family.
At the age of 13, in Lichtenburg Hoërskool, he wished to study art as a subjects because of his desire to become an architect. However the school psychologist advised that at his age he did not have the experience to decide a career path and persuaded him to take German instead. Two years later he was able to follow his heart and take up art. This coincided with the arrival of an enthusiastic young art teacher, Marcus Coetzer, who had a great influence on MATHEWS and exposed him to the world of design, art, architecture and avant-garde thinking. An art assignment he presented on LE CORBUSIER, in MATHEWS' matriculation year, further strengthened his determination to become an architect. The love for the genius of LE CORBUSIER continues today with CORB's Modular adorning the glass entrance of MATHEWS & ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS' premises. In 1985, he was head boy during his final year of schooling.
MATHEWS was introduced to the University of Pretoria by his brother who, at the time, was Head of the Fluid Mechanics Department. After an interview with Professor Dieter HOLM, MATHEWS enrolled for a degree in architecture in 1986. In his second year, he built his first two projects: a farmhouse for his uncle on a game farm in Limpopo province and another farmhouse in the Heidelberg district that was featured in Rooi Rose Magazine. While still a student, his third project was the design of a house for Dr and Mrs Aucamp in Johannesburg, which was completed in his thesis year.
After his third year, MATHEWS decided to take time out, while also doing a semester of design. His studio masters Karel BAKKER, Roger FISHER and Schalk LE ROUX, who had a great influence on him, encouraged him to work abroad. Accompanied by fellow student Fritz METZ, he set off to work in London and was later joined by classmate, Henri COMRIE. He worked for Bruce Gillbreth Architects an American practice in London, but later moved to Triad, a British practice, where he felt more comfortable with their world view.
In 1991 he obtained his degree in Architecture (BArch) at the University of Pretoria, receiving the Gold Fields of South Africa Scholarship for Architecture in his fourth and fifth years, as well as the David Haddon Prize for office practice in his final year. It was a vintage period at the University: his peers included Pierre SWANEPOEL, currently of StudioMAS and Henri COMRIE, now of COMRIE + WILKINSON.
In 1992, MATHEWS was invited by Professor Dieter HOLM to complete his practical training at HOLM JORDAAN HOLM. For two years, he worked closely with Gerrit JORDAAN and was offered a partnership in Mafikeng, Bophuthatswana, which he declined as he did not believe in the sustainability of the homelands. While with the practice, he was exposed to the great restoration work done by Albrecht HOLM and his assistant Jan VILJOEN.
A period of recession followed during which he supplemented his income by doing graphic design and logos for Guild Gallery, Paper Pilot, Eastwood Dynamics, MCI, Gezine Holm wood products, International Solar Council, Temm International and Choice Code Housing.
Approached by Gideon STORM of NEL, STORM AND PARTNERS, after the death of TC NEL, MATHEWS accepted the offer of a partnership. Although the firm had a very good track record in terms of design and portfolio, MATHEWS moved on after a year when the direction of the practice was increasingly in conflict with his own career plans.
The country was still in recession when, in November 1995, he joined forces with Jacques GERBER and formed MATHEWS & GERBER ARCHITECTS. The business was pitched as a youthful practice helping young couples to build on a budget and realise their dream homes. They struck a chord in the marketplace and received extensive media coverage in the press. However, the recession forced MATHEWS to become involved in building for himself and for clients, which had the positive impact of gaining valuable direct experience of hands-on building. He built six houses during that time, of which four were published in the Digest of SA Architect, Architecture SA, De Kat and House & Leisure.
In October 2000, MATHEWS & GERBER split up and MATHEWS & ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS (MAAA) was founded with Thomas GOUWS and Anton SMIT as associates. When Thomas GOUWS left in 2002 to pursue his own successful practice, Liam PURNELL was appointed senior associate together with Anton SMIT.
MATHEWS ventured into publishing after receiving many queries from the public about MAAA's use of unconventional finishing and texturing methods. Deciding there was the basis for book, he approached traditional local publishing channels that turned him down saying there was no market in South Africa for books of this nature.
MATHEWS established Visual Books and in 2003 published Architexture with the backing of one of the leading local building materials producers, Lafarge Cement. The book sold almost 5000 copies, a record for a local book in the category of non-fiction (the market is typically 2000 units). He received the PIA President's Award for Architexture in 2005. His second book, Detail Housed followed in 2007 and is almost due for a second edition. In 2009, MATHEWS was also the publishing manager for Construction Primer by Hans WEGELIN. He has been commissioned by the PIA to compile a publication of their members' work called Contemporary Capital, which is due to be published by the end of 2010.
MATHEWS is increasingly in demand as an authoritative designer. He has appeared in more than 20 television shows such as Top Billing, Kunskafee, Summit TV, Milieu, Pasella, Dekor, Kwela, Weekend Live and African Living. He helped conceptualise and research the TV programme Milieu on DSTV.
MATHEWS also acts as external design examiner for the architecture departments of three universities: Pretoria (Thesis), Free State (Thesis) and Tshwane University of Technology (3 year).
MATHEWS' started lessons in sculpture at the Fried Contemporary in 2008 where, in 2009, he completed the advanced course with Sybrand Wiechers as his studio master. MATHEWS also attended master classes with Sybrand’s mother, Issa Steynberg, the daughter of acclaimed sculptor Coert Steynberg. His interest in sculptural form stems from his more sculptural and intuitive approach to architecture.
Examples of MATHEWS’ wide range of creative and entrepreneurial outputs include:
- Designing an Absolute Vodka Drinks tray for Absolute Vodka and the House & Leisure publication
- Designing a furniture range of which two pieces were used as the only stage items for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet in the Johannesburg Civic Theatre
- Opening MG Design Box interior destinations with Jan Scholtz in 2000. The brand has two retail outlets in Pretoria
Pieter J MATHEWS is a Pretoria-based architect and principal of MATHEWS & ASSOCIATES ARCHITECTS (MAAA).
Press release 9 May 2016
SOUTH AFRICAN PAVILION AT THE 15TH ARCHITECTURE EXHIBITION AT LA BIENNALE DI VENEZIA:
PRETORIA’S OWN CITIZEN-LED ORGANIZATION TO SHOW OFF SOME CREATIVE MUSCLE IN VENICE
Every year, millions of people from across the world travel to the historic port city of Venice in Italy for the annual La Biennale di Venezia. Founded in 1895, the biennale is one of the most prestigious cultural events in the world and has often been likened to the World Cup of Art and Architecture.
This year will be the 15th International Architecture Exhibition, and will be open to the public from 28 May to 27 November 2016. South Africa will be represented by Cool Capital, the design movement convened by, Pieter Mathews, principal of Mathews & Associates Architects, that took the Capital City by storm in 2014.
The planned exhibition, supported by the Department of Arts and Culture, University of Pretoria and Business and Arts South Africa (BASA), will be hosted at Sale d’Armi at the Arsenale, a 13th-century building originally used to build and repair ships.
Mathews has been appointed by the Department of Arts & Culture as curator for the South African Pavilion, which means that he is responsible for selecting local design and architectural projects that showcase the best of innovation, ingenuity, and talent that the country has to offer.
Every year, the president of the Biennale foundation in Venice appoints an overall creative director for the year, who then proposes an umbrella theme for the Biennale. The current president, Paolo Baratta, appointed Chilean Architect Alejandro Aravena for 2016’s exhibition.
Aravena's theme for this year is “REPORTING FROM THE FRONT”. Aravena hopes that the exhibitions will explore how architecture can, over and above its apparent artistic and cultural aspects, also address social, political, economic and environmental issues. His intention with this theme is to “widen the range of issues to which architecture is expected to respond”. Foundation president Baratta agrees: “we are not interested in architecture as the manifestation of a formal style, but rather as an instrument of self-government, of humanist civilisation, and as a demonstration of the ability of humans to become masters of their own destinies.”
Each of the 64 participating countries is expected to construct a pavilion (a temporary installation) under the guidance of the countries' own curator. The pavilion should reflect and uniquely respond to the creative director's theme.
This year, the South African pavilion will follow a different approach than selecting and curating only a select few works to exhibit. The refreshingly unconstrained pavilion concept will respond to the theme by exhibiting the work of hundreds of South African's who participated in a project called Cool Capital. It is also the first time that the South African Pavilion will feature in the official catalogue printed and distributed by the Biennale Foundation in Venice.
Cool Capital's intent was unpretentious and simple: dismantle the bureaucratic relationship between citizens and public space in order to free creativity. Citizens were encouraged to rediscover marginalized and forgotten parts of the city, to collaborate and to become active agents in the rethinking of Pretoria as home, place, destination, and capital city.
Cool Capital demonstrated what can be gained when citizens are provided with an unofficial opportunity to constructively engage with issues they identify in the realm of architecture, art, and design. According to Pieter Mathews, the curator, the pavilion becomes a call to citizens of any city to become design activists.
In accordance with the uncurated, DIY nature of Cool Capital, the South African exhibition will be inclusive and democratic; by representing the work of hundreds of innovative participants, the pavilion will provide a world platform to lesser-known South African artists, designers, and most importantly, active citizens. A variety of the documented outcomes as well as the official Cool Capital Catalogue, detailing the successful citizen-driven interventions will be on display, and the catalogue will form a big part of the pavilion design.
According to Mr. Saul Kgomotso Molobi, consular-general to the South African Embassy in Milan and commissioner of the South African pavilion, this year's South African Pavilion will be especially unique. "This year will be historic in the sense that we will not be taking only a few exclusive architects’ or artists’ work, but the projects of over 1000 South African participants, probably making this one of the most representative pavilions in the history of SA’s involvement with the Biennale."
A short documentary film entitled DorpStad will be on display and will give visitors an idea of the variety of innovative projects that made up the soul of Cool Capital. Numerous original installations will also be traveling from South Africa will give visitors to the pavilion the authentic Cool Capital experience.
While exhibiting at the Biennale Architettura 2012, architect Pieter Mathews was inspired by a poster encouraging visitors to “take the discussion beyond Venice”. Back in Pretoria, South Africa, with the assistance of a small group of architects and artists, the first uncurated, DIY, guerilla biennale called Cool Capital was launched.
The aim of Cool Capital was clear: dismantle the bureaucratic relationship between citizens and public space and encourage a new ownership for the city.
Designers were encouraged to rediscover marginalised parts of the city’s historic centre, to collaborate with residents by creating pop-up installations and to become active agents in the rethinking of their city as place, destination and capital city. Cool Capital’s uncurated approach meant that the usual bureaucratic processes were short-circuited. It democratized creativity and promoted activism by putting the city into the hands of its creative community.
The city came alive as spontaneous street art and design interventions celebrated the city, inspiring urban renewal, achieving social coherence and, above all, putting a smile on the mind. Cool Capital proved that real change lies in the hands of engaged citizens.
Low on budget but high on innovation, over 150 interventions took place, all of them questioning, challenging, or leveling the status quo. This year Cool Capital continues with the theme “small is big”. Cool Capital has cemented Pretoria as a notable African centre of creativity.