04 September 2019 | Story Leonie Bolleurs | Photo Charl Devenish
Jon Jacobson
Delivering the 31st Sophia Gray Memorial Lecture and Exhibition in Bloemfontein, was Jon Jacobson from Metropolis Design in Cape Town.

What is inside and what is outside? What is coming alive in the light? Minimalism. Hugeness. Shadows. Soft. Art. Complex. Conversation. Ambiguity. Clarity. All phrases and words used by the most recent Sophia Gray laureate, Jon Jacobson from Metropolis Design in Cape Town, to describe aspects of his work.

He delivered the 31st Sophia Gray memorial lecture in Bloemfontein. The name of his lecture at this prestigious event, organised by the UUFS Department of Architecture, was in [de] finite. Jacobson is the first graduate in the department’s MArch with Design.

Nature plays a big role in many of his projects, with a blurred distinction between the inside and the outside of the structures he builds. His designs fulfil the desire of a union with nature. 

A detailed investigation

Jacobson creates places and spaces to celebrate being. “Architecture is undeniably art, but it is also embodied in the completeness of the lived moment,” he says. 

Every project starts with a detailed investigation. “What social theory will we engage with? How progressive is it? What attitude will we take to the environment, to the theory of family? What other personal concerns will we be worried about? It is important to engage critically with this information. Important to build a philosophical base for each project,” says Jacobson.

He also believes it is important to consciously ensure that form follows idea with the same intensity that it follows function and that it does not blindly follow other form. 

At Metropolis, Jon and his team are client centred in their approach to design. Jon explains the process: “Some of the content is brought from the client’s personal and social aspiration and some from contemporary architecture culture, but the most potent component is the hidden set of ideas that emerge from our own engagements with the living world such as popular science, geology, art, music, literature, philosophy, theology, mysticism, and many others. And this emerges in the hidden sense of the word, in its architecture content.”

Content approach to design

In house design, Jon categorises the content that informs the architecture of the house: content pertaining to the individual, their philosophy, values and beliefs, content derived from culture, architecture and the arts, passion, religion, politics, and content referring to the natural world and its processes. Content from each of these spheres is present in any of his work. 

Jon says a major implication of a content approach to design is that it requires a design framework that is largely operative at a level of idea rather than at the level of form. This contributes to creating architecture rather than just buildings. 

His design method allows conscious control over the relationship between the ideas, the forms, and the poetics of the projects. “And at any point in the building process, it is possible to trace back and to critically assess whether any particular form is aligning with the core ideas of the project,” Jon indicates. 

Jon’s first taste of grappling with the infinite of architecture was with a garden pavilion he built for rest and relaxation. “For the first time I felt that we integrated planning, content, sight, programme, structure, and materiality into one unified whole that was expressed with a minimum of means and that was more than just the sum of its part,” he states.

He strongly believes that the individual is at the centre of every architectural project. He says the belief systems, type of social needs, family dynamics, physical habits, and spatial practices of their clients need to be investigated in detail in order to facilitate a meaningful spatial experience.

He continues: “We see our role as designers to saturate the environment with the meaning that enhances our clients’ daily experience in every possible way – from the ergonomic and the practical to the spiritual. In the process, the logics and tradition of architecture and the ego of the architect sometimes need to make way for human need and aspiration.”




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