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Book of South African Women: Architects

Gardiol Bergenthuin

Sole partner Gardiol Bergenthuin Architect

Tel: +27 11 793 4439

The pace at which women chartered accountants in South Africac have been breaking through the accountancy profession’s glass ceiling has quickened. Ruth Benjamin-Swales is a University of Cape Town graduate who qualified as a CA(SA) in 1989. After completing her training, she worked at Ernst & Young, and then moved to the Office of the Auditor General.

In 1997 she was invited to join the partnership of KMMT Brey, which became part of Ernst & Young in 2002. She is currently an audit partner for the firm in Cape Town, where she is responsible for a portfolio of clients in the education and public sectors. Since qualifying as a CA(SA), Benjamin-Swales has served the accountancy profession through her involvement in many subcommittees, councils and boards, including the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica), the Association for the Advancement of Black Accountants of Southern Africa and as president of the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors. She is also the immediate past president of Saica in the southern region.

Trudi Groenewald

Partner Groenewald/Preller Architects

Tel: +27 21 423 5915

Trudi Groenewald specialises in technical, industrial and heritage projects, among them the SALT Observatory Building at Sutherland. The first female president of the Cape Institute of Architects, elected in 1992, Groenewald worked abroad in Spain and Canada before becoming a senior partner in Burg Doherty Bryant & Partners in the 1980s, in charge of the Cape Town office.

She founded Groenewald/Preller Architects in 1990 with Deborah Preller. Groenewald has served on several boards and committees, including the planning advisory board of the Western Cape provincial administration. She earned a BArch at the University of Pretoria and went on to complete a property development programme at UCT’s Graduate School of Business and a certificate in arbitration from the Association of Arbitrators.

Among the work the practice has undertaken is renovations on the Robben Island Museum and the building of several projects for the South African Navy in Simon’s Town.

Sarah Calburn


Tel: +27 11 726 1162/3

Sarah Calburn founded her award-winning Johannesburg-based architectural practice in 1996 after completing a master’s degree in architecture by research at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT). She was born in Johannesburg, graduated from the University of the Witwatersrand with distinction and has worked as an architect in Paris, Hong Kong, Sydney and Melbourne.

Her practice specialises in design integrity, in the ‘art” of architecture. Calburn’s practice has completed many striking houses, and she is the author of a number of buildings-about-town: Gallery Momo, the Paul Smith shop, To’guna, and in Swaziland the House on Fire. She sits on the committee of the Gauteng Institute for Architecture, from which position she has initiated a series of continuing professional development-accredited design masterclasses called ‘Rapid thought transport: Architects re-imagine Joburg”. Calburn has taught design at Wits, the University of Cape Town, and RMIT.

‘Ora Joubert


Tel: + 27 82 445 3741

For most of her career, Dr ‘Ora Joubert has been involved in the academic world. She obtained a BArch degree, cum laude, at the University of Pretoria, an MScArch degree at Pennsylvania State University in the United States and a PhD at the University of Natal.

After lecturing at various universities, Joubert was appointed head of the department of architecture at the University of the Free State from 2001 until 2004, then moved on to head the architecture, landscape architecture and interior architecture programmes at the University of Pretoria until September 2008. But she has also been in private practice for nearly two decades.

From 1986 until 1989 she worked as in-house architect for the Get Ahead Foundation. Joubert has been the recipient of numerous design awards. Her work has received critical acclaim in more than 50 publications and was included in the Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture. She was the editor and convener of the seminal reference work on contemporary South African architecture entitled 10+yTown.

Kate Otten

Principal Architect Kate Otten Architects

Tel: +27 11 726 4163

Kate Otten established her own practice in 1989 after gaining experience with other practices, including Jo Noero & Henry Paine Architects. An internationally award-winning South African architect, she has designed work as diverse as community libraries, the Tzaneen Waterfront development, the museum exhibition space at the former Women’s Jail at Constitution Hill and an art therapy centre.

She holds a BArch from the University of the Witwatersrand, where she is a part-time lecturer in theory and design; she also lectures in architectural construction and design at the Alexandra Arts Centre. Her numerous awards include regional businesswoman of the year and a commendation from the South African Institute of Architects for her work on the former Woman’s Jail. Her work has been published both locally and overseas in publications as diverse as Oprah’s O magazine and The Economist

Deborah Preller

Partner Groenewald/Preller Architects

Tel: +27 21 423 5915

Deborah Preller designed for Burg Doherty Bryant & Partners and JH Architects in Worcester before pulling up stakes and moving to Jamaica in 1988, where she managed the Chang Group, a multidisciplinary development and construction company designing schools, community centres and luxury houses.

She returned to South Africa to become a partner in Groenewald/Preller Architects and has designed schools throughout the Western Cape and community-driven multi-purpose facilities, clinics and crèches, such as the community centre for Ithemba Labantwana in Gugulethu and Medecins sans Frontieres’ Nolangile Youth Centre and Clinic in Khayelitsha.

A superb watercolourist, she is also responsible for the practice’s sketch designs. Preller, who earned a BArch from the University of Pretoria, has been an external examiner at a number of universities and universities of technology and has lectured part-time in applied design at the Cape University of Technology. She has served as president of the Cape Institute for Architecture and on the management committee of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA). She is also on the editorial advisory boards of a number of publications, including the Digest of African Architecture.

Sonja Petrus Spamer

Senior Design Architect MMA Architects

Tel: + 27 21 419 0604

Sonja Petrus Spamer is a practising architect with a focus on social projects such as housing and education buildings. A merit award she received from the South African Institute of Architects for a private house in Cape Town likened the building to ‘two finely crafted Paradise Flycatchers’ nests — nestling in the trees and exemplifying an environmental awareness through its very structure”.

She earned a BAS with distinction and a BArch with a first class pass from the University of Cape Town, where she is currently registered for an MPhil. She lectured in design for eight years at UCT’s School of Architecture, Planning and Geomatics, and she continues her association with the university as an external examiner. As a staff architect at Jo Noero Architects, she worked on a range of education and community buildings, a specialisation she has retained.

Nadia Tromp

Founder Member, Designer, Director Ntsika Architects

Tel: + 27 79 493 0411

Nadia Tromp is the managing director of Ntsika Architects, one of only a few 100% black female-owned practices in South Africa. She completed her training at the University of Cape Town in 2000. Since then she has practiced in Cape Town and Johannesburg, becoming the principle partner in Paragon Habitat Architects in 2006.

While there, she was instrumental in the practice being awarded the bid for the Greenpoint, FIFA 2010 World Cup Soccer Stadium, as part of a consortium of designers. Currently, under the Ntsika Architects umbrella, Tromp is involved in exciting urban regeneration projects in Johannesburg CBD.

She is overseeing the construction of the Yeoville Recreation Centre Upgrade, due for completion mid-August 2009 and has just finished the urban environment upgrade of the Fashion District. She is also a director in an international architectural practice, called ATA, which has green/sustainable design at the heart of the practice and focuses on architectural design competitions.

Laura Robinson

Director Cape Town Heritage Trust

Tel: +27 21 421 0287

An architect by profession — she earned a BArch at the University of Cape Town -­ Laura Robinson’s specialisation is in the management of cultural heritage, in particular the built environment and cultural landscape. The Cape Town Heritage Trust, which she directs, is tasked with the conservation and promotion of the built environment and cultural landscape of Cape Town.

She is a past president of the Cape Institute for Architecture and a board member of the South African Institute of Architects, as well as a past convener of its heritage committee. She is one of the founder members of the International Committee for Monuments and Sites and the executive treasurer of the South African national committee; she is also a bureau member of the International Scientific Committee for 20th Century Heritage.

Past and present board memberships include the South African Heritage Resources Agency, the Robben Island Museum Council and the Cape Town Partnership. Robinson has been working with World Heritage Sites since 1997 and was responsible for the preparation of the nomination dossier for Robben Island. She serves on the South African World Heritage Convention Committee.

Current projects include the development of a conservation management plan for the University of Cape Town, proposals for the revitalisation of various heritage buildings in Cape Town including the Old Granary and the City Hall, and the establishment of the management authority for the Taung World Heritage Site.

Anya van der Merwe Miszewski

Director Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects

Tel: +27 21 423 5829

Anya van der Merwe Miszewski established Van der Merwe Miszewski Architects (VDMMA) with Macio Miszewski in Cape Town in 1993. The practice has been recognised for a wide range of projects, including the Tree House, the Cape Town Convention Centre, the De Beers HQ and Bridge House.

VDMMA has received many awards and commendations, both nationally and internationally, and its work has been widely published. Van der Merwe Miszewski completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Cape Town (UCT) where she received both her BArch degree and thesis with distinction.

Thereafter she completed a degree in history and theory at the renowned Architectural Association in London. She has been a member of a variety of committees and panels and was recently appointed a professor of architecture at UCT.

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