Renowned for his stunning architecture, Mokena Makeka now heads up his own show. When I recently learned of his success, his breakthrough work was suggested as re-defining police stations in his native South Africa. He pioneered the removal of bars and outwardly heavy protective bias. He aimed to use architecture as a way of creating a new partnership between the police and people in his crime-riven homeland. Bars stuck on the outside all over the place, he said, show that the police themselves are afraid, so what chance does the normal populace have? Make the new buildings more open. Remove the bars. And his vision when realised helped change behaviour. Impressive.
He was also hailed for pushing his policy that “decent design is a basic human right”, as well as promoting diversity (30 nationalities are represented within his Practice). Bringing together different points of view and backgrounds and how they come together as a group, is to him the only way to create great work.
The interviewer asked how come he set up on his own, the inference being that he’d done so straight out of Uni. Understandably his first response was that coming second in an international competition of 260 gave him confidence. His second was a classic sales lesson.
As well as holding the technical skills, he was convinced that he could also learn what else he considered most important. When in front of potential clients, he needed the ability to ‘ask the right questions’. Not pitching, not talking about his capabilities. He summed this up beautifully;
you must develop your Sense Of Curiosity.
Where’s yours at? Do clients get to feel it? What can you do to let it excitedly run free…?