This year’s Expo sees the return of the popular “for the love of CONCRETE Design and Art Competitions”. Designers and artists from around the Western Cape will present their concrete creations in the hopes of winning a portion of the whopping R36 000 in prize monies. Cape Town HOMEMAKERS Expo invited three distinguished names in art, architecture and interior design to judge this year’s competition. We chatted to Mardre Meyer, Marilyn Martin and Martin Kruger.

Tell us a little more about yourself.

Mardre Meyer: I really like black. Unless there’s grey. I fantasize about reinventing houses from the mid-century South African sub-urban sprawl while still secretly considering running away to join a trapeze troupe.

Marilyn Martin: In May 2001, after eleven years as director of the South African National Gallery, I was appointed director of Art Collections for Iziko Museums. Prior to my career in the museum sector I became a senior lecturer for the Department of Architecture, Wits University. Since my retirement from Iziko Museums in 2008 I have has been working as an independent writer, curator and lecturer in art history at the University of Cape Town. In 2016 I was appointed as the Honorary Research Associate at the Michaelis School of Fine Art at UCT. I have curated exhibitions of South African art in this country, as well as in Brazil, Denmark, France, Mali and the USA, serving on many selection panels and written extensively for national and international publications.

In 2002 I was admitted to the Legion of Honour of the Republic of France at the rank of Officer and in 2013 I received the medal of the Fondation Alliance française in Paris.

Martin Kruger: I am an architect and urbanist. I have been in practice for 35 years and have a curiosity for city structure and heritage, and how contextually sensitive, urban architecture can make a difference.

Where is your hometown and has this been a source of inspiration for you? How?

Mardre Meyer: Growing up in a rural setting on the Garden Route has not just inspired me, it has shaped my point of view. While many claim it, we literally grew up building tree houses, playing in muddy ditches and building fantasies out of what we could gather. This core belief that everything has the potential to transform into true beauty through the power of imagination has driven much of what I do professionally.

Marilyn Martin: I was born in McGregor and went to school in Robertson (primary) and Heidelberg High School (Cape). Inspired by a trusting, loving family and teachers who went way beyond what was expected of them to provide a solid education for learners, even in a small town.

Martin Kruger: Cape Town has been my home for 27 years. I was born in Paarl and grew up in the Witwatersrand. The Cape is a continuous source of inspiration from the traditions of Cape architecture and place-making, to the cultural landscape, the mountains and the sea… and so many other creatives, good food and good wine.

Mardre Meyer

How do you feel about concrete as a medium, for both design and art?

Mardre Meyer: Its fluidity and range has the ability to realise anything the creative can imagine. Depending on its composition it can be smooth, textured, crude or refined. It can range from fluid and embracing to stark and indifferent. It really is a medium with few boundaries. It is also a material that is utterly democratic. In my professional travels across the African continent it is often the building material of choice as it is accessible and easy to work with. This makes it both the high-end technical choice as well as the favourite of grassroots builders. I love these contrasting personalities.

Marilyn Martin: It is a great medium, but perhaps more than many expressive vehicles, the quality of the concrete and the execution have to be excellent.

Martin Kruger: I am fascinated by the virtuosity of concrete – the plasticity, achievable textures, finishes and forms. Also the structural capacity of concrete to deal with innovative and creative forms.

The organisers aim to promote innovative design attitudes related to concrete. Do you agree that the medium shows room for improvement and development? Why?

Mardre Meyer: Innovation and constant development is what the design industry is built on, so there will always be a need for it. As a medium concrete can be relevant is so many spheres – from furniture to jewellery to art, design and its more traditional uses in the built industry.

Marilyn Martin: Concrete may be perceived as hard and cold, and there is always room for improvement; again, it depends on how it is used.

Martin Kruger: There are recent industry innovations in concrete that we have to explore: such as light weight concrete, light in concrete, textures, pre-cast innovations, basically anything that you can think of…

Marilyn Martin Photo credit: Gavin Furlonger

In your opinion, what is the most important trend in concrete?

Mardre Meyer: Unconventional uses. By stretching the material’s boundaries new applications are being tested. Solid vs translucent; heavy vs light; rough and refined vs smooth and sophisticated.

Martin Kruger:  Computer software and 3-D printing will be opening up new worlds.

How do you feel about your participation as a judge in the for the love of CONCRETE Design and Art Competitions?

Mardre Meyer: I have been involved in judging panels for HOMEMAKERS Expo for a few years but this presents a new challenge – a more focused approach that will be less formulaic and more opinion-driven.

Marilyn Martin: I am excited about seeing innovative and creative designs in the medium.

Martin Kruger:  I am curious and intrigued, looking forward to the process.

martin kruger concrete judge homemakers expo
Martin Kruger

What will you be looking for in the designs and artworks? Any specific criteria?

Mardre Meyer: Integrity and fully realised thought-process.

Marilyn Martin: I like to keep an open mind.

Do you have a favourite concrete item or product?

Mardre Meyer: On the small scale I have a longstanding love-affair with air bricks. On a fantasy scale, Tadao Ando is the god of concrete. The density of concrete is often used to accentuate the delicacy of natural light.

Marilyn Martin: Since 2017, Olu Oguibe’s obelisk in Germany.

Martin Kruger:  The wood-cast ceiling of a house we recently completed in Franschhoek, and also the honed concrete floors of the house done by the World of Decorative Concrete and JJ Dempers Construction.

Tadao Ando’s Shanghai Poly Grand Theatre
Olu Oguibe’s obelisk in Kassel, Germany

In your view, what is the biggest décor/art trend this year? (Going into Spring & Summer)

Mardre Meyer: Familiarity. Elements that feel collected, reinvented and tell a unique story.

Martin Kruger: I think the environment and recycling should always be important, but who knows?

The Design Competition will feature functional concrete design, whereas the Art Competition will be a visual expression of all things art – both using concrete as a medium. The top entries in both categories will be on display and visitors will be invited to bid on their favourite design or artwork, with funds raised going to DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group). For more details on the competition, click here: www.homemakersonline.co.za/expo/cape-town-homemakers-expo-and-wodc-launch-concrete-design-and-art-competitions