Architects Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens are a power couple set on creating a legacy of design excellence as part of South Africa’s multi-award-winning architect firm Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Architects.

Founded by Rech in 1994, who was joined by Carstens in 1999, the firm continues to scoop coveted accolades, including the most recent Treasure Island Award 2018 at The Tatler Travel Awards 2018, and Best Design for Leobo Observatory Bush Villa; Chinzombo, Zambia (Time & Tide); Vumbura Plains Camp (Botswana Wilderness Safaris) and Chongwe River House – (third place) Zambia (Tide & Tide); Best Family Safari Experience for Leobo Observatory Bush Villa; Best Safari Spa/Retreat for Jao Camp (Botswana Wilderness Safari) and Chinzombo, Zambia (Time & Tide); Most Romantic Safari Property for Chinzombo (Time & Tide) and Best Safari House for Leobo Observatory Bush Villa at the Safari Awards 2018 (Africa).

Rech shared what this recognition for their work means to them and elaborated on projects in the pipeline.

What do the most recent 2018 awards mean to you and the business? 

With the Observatory Bush Villa, as an anchor of our original language, receiving another award, and Miavana, which was built more recently with a much more modern approach – a brand-new product and language – also receiving an award, it means we’re on the right path! It means that the “language” that we have created and being innovative and staying true to our design principles have worked.

How did Silvio Rech and Lesley Carstens Architects come about and what was the vision?

Adventure is what it’s all about, and a driving force to create a new “African (architectural) language”, and to live on-site from the get-go on all projects. Our design philosophy is based on encompassing the culture, local materials and colours of the environment and being on0site means that we are able to absorb the essence of the cultural mix and the communal effort that it takes to make them real. With a vision to create excellent design work where “Design is King” and fuelled by a need to do artistic and out-of-the-ordinary projects, I founded the company in 1994 and was joined by Les in 1997. We now have an office of about 10 architects and interior designers.

What has sustained your passion and ability to continuously create award-winning work?

It’s in our DNA!  And it’s the love of, and for the journey – the design journey – we immerse ourselves completely in each project, and they become part of us. We provide everything –the architecture, building, project management and all décor, right down to the last teaspoon, over a period of four to five years.

Having worked extensively across the continent, what have been some of your most challenging or fulfilling projects over the years, as you “influence the evolution of safari lodge design”

Yes. we have worked all over Africa and in India, including Madagascar, Seychelles, Okavango and Zambia and in the remotest of areas. So, the biggest challenges that confront us are those of logistics and time – it takes a long time to build in these isolated and inaccessible areas. But in a lighter vein, it also teaches one to be frugal in all sorts of ways – you have to reflect and distil your thoughts and plans.

Please share why you feel it’s important to collaborate with locals and pool skills.

Collaboration with locals fitted well with our mission, as we wanted to remain true to our philosophy of “design based on nature”. Most, if not all of our projects, have used local artisans – their craftsmanship and know-how in their designs – and this included the development and a transfer of skills. We learn from the indigenous people and they learn from us.  And the most gratifying result is that when we move on to new projects, they stay on to maintain the project and create their own ones.

What projects are you working on/are in the pipeline that you’d like to share?

We are currently working on a gorilla-viewing safari camp in the Congo, re-building Jao Camp in the Okavango Delta – 15 years later; we’re doing additions on the iconic bespoke Pengilly House (Clifton) and our own House Rech Carstens in Westcliff, and a tented camp at Thornybush and some other private houses.

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