DSA Architects has a wealth of experience to its name across Africa , Europe and the Middle East and, and is converting this knowledge into a portfolio with uniqueness and creativity in abundance
Writer: Matthew Staff
Project Manager: Kane Weller
The origins of DSA Architects International dates back to 1985, with the establishment of RSL (Ridler Shepherd Low) Architects in Johannesburg, South Africa. Historically, the focus of the practice was on hospitality, leisure and high-end residential projects, but over the years - upon the formulations of DSA Architects International SA (Pty) in 2001 - the business has extended the scope of its portfolio to encompass retail, commercial and industrial projects.
DSA Architects International SA (Pty) was set up as the Holding Company with offices in Johannesburg, Dubai and Lisbon, and since then, DSA has designed and completed projects in 28 countries around the world.
“With multiple award-winning projects to our name, we are committed to delivering exemplary designs which embrace sustainability, technology and high levels of service,” explains the Africa Managing Director, Zinon Marinakos.
The African and Indian Ocean Islands Region is led by Marinakos together with fellow Directors, Beata Kaleta, Rob Low and Ian Manson-Kullin with a staff of 34; headed out of the Company’s head office in Johannesburg. The Group then has two well established, branch offices in the Middle East and Europe. The Dubai office is managed by Steve Kelshaw, (MD Middle-East), with a staff of 90. The European office, which is based in Lisbon, is run by Mike Scott, (MD Europe) with a staff of 14.
“Also based in Johannesburg are our Group Chairman, Clive Shepherd and our Group FD, Pierre Deckers are responsible for global operations,” Marinakos continues. “The overall experience and knowledge accumulated over the years is extensive and integral to the practice. This has also forged a strong set of values, which are central to DSA’s work ethic.”
Africa Outlook (AfO): Throughout the Company’s evolution, what have been the Company’s main continuous improvement strategies?
Zinon Marinakos (ZM): We concentrate on building teams of highly motivated, experienced and creative architects, designers and technicians, with a proven ability to conceptualise, design, manage and deliver exciting, space-efficient and viable developments; to nurture innovative thought, design flair and technical excellence; and to maintain empathy and respect for the environment and local conditions.
Our business structure and strategic office locations not only facilitate our access to key clients, but an understanding of the commercial and economic conditions and any other influences that are specific to this type of design and development that will influence the delivery of the final product.
We also incorporate green and sustainable principles in our designs to minimise environmental impacts. DSA is committed to delivering ecologically responsible and environmentally responsive projects that accomplish optimised boundaries between the built and natural environment.
As such, our international offices are members of the Emirates Green Building Council (LEED) and Green Building Council of South Africa (Green Star) networks. Through this affiliation, DSA is able to collaborate with recognised industry specialists and accredited professionals to deliver complete green building solutions that are both pioneering, and complementary to our clients’ visions.
DSA applies a holistic approach to solving our clients’ sustainability challenges by intimately understanding their environmental objectives and operational requirements. Together, we strategically evaluate areas of environmental impact, building performance, operational dynamics and budget; to develop clear and tailored solutions that deliver unique designs which benefit both the developer and operator.
AfO: Testament to these strategies of course are the projects completed over the years, so can you please talk me through some of the most iconic examples that you believe signify DSA’s strengths?
ZM: I think the reflection of DSA's strengths is the number of local and International property awards which we have received over the years: these have been for - to name a few - The Fairmont Zimbali Resort Hotel in KwaZulu Natal; the Four Seasons Hotel Westcliff, in Johannesburg; The One & Only The Palm and the Old Town in Dubai; and more recently the Torres Rani Residences and Office Towers, in Maputo Mozambique.
On the casino and entertainment front we have historically been involved in the Grandwest Complex in Cape Town, Carnival City in Gauteng, and Sibaya Casino in KwaZulu Natal. More recently, we have completed the Boardwalk Hotel and Conference Centre at the Casino Entertainment complex in Port Elizabeth (all in association with Northpoint Architects) and are presently involved in the Menlyn Maine Casino and Entertainment Complex in Pretoria (in association with LYT Architecture) for Sun International.
Currently we are excited by the various commercial projects that we are working on, both on our doorstep in Sandton, Johannesburg and further north in Africa.
AfO: Across how wide a footprint does the Company currently work, and what is DSA’s strategy when it comes to identifying potential projects in new regions?
ZM: At present, DSA is working in a number of countries including Rwanda, The Ivory Coast, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda, Namibia, Mozambique, Seychelles and Nigeria. Generally our policy is to be led by opportunities introduced by operators and developers in the various African countries. When working outside of South Africa we work in association with local architectural practices rather than opening offices in these countries. This policy has proved to be beneficial in terms of understanding local cultures and building regulations, whilst bringing international expertise to local practices, to form meaningful partnerships.
AfO: On a more internal note, what significant investments have been made to help facilitate these projects in recent years?
ZM: Our design and management teams are led by experienced industry staff and we have successfully delivered diverse and large projects over the years. Our design teams direct, lead and manage the whole process utilising various methods as part of our overall quality management system to ensure that the project is delivered on time and to budget; all to the satisfaction of our client.
We are also firm believers that the key to the success of our teams is communication. We have much experience in this area in managing such a task remotely and have procedures and protocols to implement and manage the situation, all as part of our quality management systems.
The design process needs to be controlled very closely, which is achieved via a series of documentation management tools and established systems across areas of planning, technical scope documents, responsibility statements, risk management, and quality control systems
AfO: From a personnel perspective, what is the Company’s approach to the hiring, training and retention of key skills?
ZM: DSA is continuously improving its internal structures to ensure that the Company maintains its high standards going forward. Succession into the next generation is paramount, and we are continuously introducing new ‘young and dynamic’ blood into the business. It’s critical to not only keep up with the evolving design and construction industry, but also to be aware of the progressive structures within our client organisations.
It is also always a priority to retain a local participation in respect of material and staff in the supply chain management and we endeavour to do this whenever possible.
AfO: This brings into mind areas of CSR so to what extent does DSA Architects involve itself in corporate social responsibility initiatives?
ZM: DSA Architects has an ongoing charity portfolio, whereby we raise funds and necessities that might be needed by the numerous charities we support.
The main charity supported by DSA in Johannesburg is Abangani Enkosini, a home in Alexandra, near Johannesburg, which looks after 250 orphaned and vulnerable children together with elderly and HIV positive women. We also support Angels Baby Sanctuary in Gauteng, an orphanage for abandoned babies.
AfO: On a general note, what would you say defines DSA Architects and differentiates it from others within the sector?
ZM: We believe that our international experience and working on substantial projects such as The Madinat Jumeirah and The Old Town precinct in Dubai are some of the key factors which differentiate us. Another is probably the geographic spread of our projects around the world. We believe that it’s important to ensure that each project is unique in itself, and designed appropriately for its location.
DSA Architects International is a leading ‘Architectural Design Services Business’, delivering iconic buildings and environments from our strategic global locations in South Africa, the UAE, and Europe.
We follow the philosophy that “magnificent buildings are the result of creative architects turning great concepts into unique realisations”.
AfO: Finally, if we were to speak again in three-five years’ time, what would you hope and expect to be able to report back in terms of future Company development?
ZM: Our drive is to make an impact on the developing African market where we see enormous potential and growth. We are constantly in the process of forming strategic partnerships with key role players in the property development industry to expand further into Africa.
We also firmly believe in growing our ‘home base’ and being more aggressive in our immediate surroundings in South Africa.