Peter Rich is a significant architect in South Africa. He is known for his ideas and designs. He was born and raised in Johannesburg; his childhood wasn’t easy; he lost his father at a young age; and his studies weren’t good at the beginning of college. He entered the architectural field in the mid-60’s. He focused on the social awareness and wellness of the people, and he thought that he could make any changes in society through his career. He documented the African settlements, and he focused on preserving their culture and tradition rather than modernising them. He changed the world’s perspective on them. He was different from other architects; besides being an architect, he is the greatest human being who has the vision of spreading humanity and the importance of tradition.

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The architecture of Peter Rich

Most of Peter Rich’s buildings are of earthy beauty, and they reflect the cultural tradition of the place. He was inspired by Pancho Guedes, Christopher Wren, and Antonio Gaudi, though their buildings were famous for nature’s flow inside the artificial structures. He chose locally available materials rather than modern materials; his priority towards composite soil tiles, earthy tones, handmade materials, natural stones, and work on the site became his pattern. He strongly believed that this pattern was the main thing in design to not break Africa’s traditions and their local arts.

His famous buildings, Westridge House, Alexandria Township, and Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre, are perfect examples of his architectural style. These buildings were set for social bridging and the community of people. Though these are structures that are quite modernised in look, he never erased the traditional touch in that; he focused more on that equally to the design. He acted as a professor as well; his master class was one of the reasons students and people in the world. His famous Mapungubwe building was a visitor centre in Mapungubwe Forest. It is a space that looks like something evolved from the forest itself; its colour theory and the vault formation were something that embraces the African forest as well as the animals in it. This centre was awarded as ’World Building of the Year” in 2009.

In his famous book ‘The Architecture of Peter Rich, he talks about his work and the importance of his ideology on earth. 

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Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre_

Ideology and philosophy

Peter Rich, after overlooking the African context, changed his whole career path towards it and started learning about it more through his fieldwork, his documentation, his case studies, and his love for Africa. He had great knowledge about contemporary style; he tried to infuse that into Africa, which is changing it; he strongly believed that changing is different and developing is different. His philosophy of “designing with Africa”—the term meant more to African people; they celebrated him more than they should. He is different from any other designer; he didn’t design only residential buildings and schools; he designed structures for the city; he designed museums, cultural centres, visitor centres, and community buildings. His ideology and philosophy were reflected in the design as well.

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Sketches of Peter Rich_

Masterclass in the Modern World

Even now, people are interested in his lectures, and his love and care for the African continent have become huge because of him as well. He wants to make sure that buildings are not the reason for racism and indifference; he needs to design them for a community. His buildings and lectures made such an impact in the modern world that students were much more interested in learning about the African continent. His masterclasses are available online and are still in high demand. Some people had different perspectives, but he changed and proved their importance. In these modern days, buildings are designed only for the sake of trending, competition, aesthetics, and a hi-fi lifestyle. Slowly, every tradition and culture is fading with the glass, concrete, blocks, 3D, technology, and temporary solutions. People are more concerned about their foyer nowadays than the open verandah in front of the streets. Peter Rich mentioned this in his book. There is no interaction between people, and they don’t want to do that just because they feel somewhere bad with the bad people and consider another world worthless, ignoring the rest. This is not a good idea to live on this earth because only with love and care and by designing, writing, drafting, directing films, dancing, and singing with the people can any individual grow in society.

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Master class of Peter Rich_

Peter Rich has been awarded the Gold Medal by the South African Institute of Architects and is a recipient of the South African Professional Service Awards Lifetime Achievement Award. The African government shows off his works to the world proudly as an individual choosing his career path for the development of the city. The lessons he learned about the African vernacular and his knowledge of the contemporary style fused both of them. He did not have that much knowledge of architecture, which is his biggest advantage. He focused more on the people; his famous teacher, Pancho Guedes, was one of the reasons Rich got into the African continent. This should be a practice to follow the vernacular architecture, as pollution, UV rays, and global warming are slowly killing the beautiful earth. People on earth should consider and know the importance of living along with nature.

Reference List:


Source: Beyond


Source: Public lecture series


Source : Artefacts



Swetha is a final year architecture student and a passionate writer. She loves architecture as well as writing and started writing about Architecture. Her own way of turning her emotions into a poem, fictional story and meaningful abstract art keeps her alive.