Building Design Group Architects (1968-1977) : a study of their practice, buildings and projects.
This research examines the practice, buildings and projects of Building Design Group Architects (BDG), a collaborative of architects and students in Durban during the period 1968-1977. It traces the careers of its principal members, firstly as students at the University of Natal, and later in private practice through the formation and practice of BDG. BDG operated at the fringes of conventional practice. Through a diminished office hierarchy, a team culture was established whereby the endeavors of all personnel were to the common purpose of furthering the architectural objectives of the practice. Responsibilities were shared by qualified architects and students alike. BDG were young and uninhibited by the dogmas of the established profession, architectural compromise being supplanted by investigation and experimentation. The practice operated in a studio atmosphere where a heightened expectation was imposed on each project design and individual concerned. The resulting product of the practice was a vibrant oeuvre of work, predominantly residential; the designs asked questions of the conventions of building form, spatial relationships, technology and building economics. The answers to these questions manifested in an architecture resonating with regional identity. The study identifies the early careers of many important architects who were associated with BDG, and who would contribute to the development of contemporary South African architecture. Paul Mikula, Bryan Lee, John Edgar, Brian Kearney as founding members of BDG would shape the direction of the practice and beyond. They were joined at various stages and durations by Kevin MacGarry, Colin Savage, Tony Wilson, Peter Wilkinson, Bruce Stafford, Luis Ferreira da Silva and Jo Noero, all of whom would later start their own independent practices. However, what emerges from the study is the pivotal role of Paul Mikula in the account of BDG. It was his vigor, vision, passion and talent for design that ignited the practice and drew the attention of the local architectural fraternity. The influence of his work and personality was felt by all those around him; he has significantly marked the architectural landscape of the region, and this study promotes the recognition of Paul Mikula as a significant South African architect.