Theme: Designing with Compassion

Cape Town-based architecture studio theMAAK is helping make design more accessible and inclusive through its community-based projects and social-impact architecture. “We’re interested in the potential positive impact the spaces we create have on people’s lives,” says Max Melvill, who co-founded the practice with fellow architect Ashleigh Killa in 2016. “This is one of the reasons we focus on public buildings and public space-making.”

theMAAK’s philosophy revolves around working with communities and community-based organisations to design and build world-class architecture in under-resourced areas. “We want to use our passion and skills to address the spatial injustices of our past,” says Melvill. “Where infrastructure has historically been used to separate communities, we want to do the opposite. If we’re able to execute considered, beautiful buildings in spaces that generally don’t have access to that, then we are helping equalise the urban narrative of South Africa.” The duo has already made a mark in Masiphumelele, by designing a new test clinic for the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, and in Nyanga, with its ongoing Community Curtain project for the Ulwazi Information & Arts Centre.

Its annual ‘design and make’ programme, Follies in the Veld, is another way it is using public architecture to bring people together. Working with like-minded people, the workshop produces innovative design interventions from unique building materials. In 2018 it created a six-metre tower from re-purposed glass bottles. Last year the result was swooping canopies made from discarded Tetra-Pak, erected in Langa, made in collaboration with creatives from the community. Says Melvill, “Working in public spaces allows our work to facilitate meaningful human connections. We enjoy collaborating with the users of these spaces in the design process to help forge a more honest, appropriate and sustainable urban identity.”

100 Beautiful Things is presented by the V&A Waterfront in celebration of South Africa’s creativity, compassion, ingenuity and resilience. Every week we will be showcasing five amazingly beautiful creative things that make us proud. It is curated in partnership with Platform Creative.