decor, inspiration

Wrapped in Memphis

Niel Vosloo

As we noted in our Jan/Feb trends edition and explored in more depth in our March issue (on shelves now), the bright colours and abstract geometric shapes of the 1980s Memphis movement are making a comeback. We’ve seen a revival of this aesthetic in fashion, interiors and the art world, and now it's popped up in an architectural form in Cape Town's vibrant CBD. The building at 109 Hatfield Street in the city bowl - home to world-renowned architecture practice SAOTA, interior architecture and design studio ARRCC and furniture and lighting design house OKHA - has brought this trend to life with a bold, vivid Memphis-inspired vinyl installation across its  facade. insitu1 Each year, the group wraps its glass front in an eye-catching pattern, a custom that has led to the building becoming a landmark in the area, and for 2016, they chose to collaborate with award-winning local artist Renée Rossouw. The choice was motivated by Renée's experience as a trained architect who once worked at SAOTA, as well as the work she's done in art and product design that reflects her focus on, in OKHA Brand Manager Jack Nieuwoudt's words, 'the graphic expression of the African landscape, often characterised by the spatial relationship of form and colour'. Insitu2 Renée worked closely with SAOTA director Greg Truen to achieve the final design, and explains how they conceptualised it here:

'The design process started with the idea of festivities that excite people. Elemental interpretations of ideas such as celebrations, gifts, sun and summer were used to compile the original pattern. The design also incorporates forms that are based on architectural ideas to reflect what happens on the inside of the building.'
Renée split the glass façade in two and placed bigger, simpler shapes on the large upper window, while reserving the lower facade for a more structured, ordered pattern. Across the whole design is a use of bright, lively colour that, as Mark Rielly of ARRCC says, 'exemplify the optimism and energy that resonates from within.' insitu3 OKHA's Jack sums up the design as such: 'We wanted a vibrant, graphic representation of OKHA, SAOTA and ARRCC’s design vocabulary: contemporary but elegant, modern but essentially timeless, rooted in Africa but very definitely international.' As he explains, it's important to OKHA to promote and support local designers and craftspeople, so this vivacious addition to their shop front is a lovely, loud way to celebrate the spirit of collaboration. insitu4 The image above and below gives us a glimpse into the extent of work that went into the installation of the vinyl pieces, which continue to add a beautiful on-trend touch of Memphis to Cape Town. insitu5 As for my personal take on the Memphis pattern at 109 Hatfield Street, well as a child of the 1980s myself, it evokes a sense of nostalgia in me. It brings back visions of cupcake sprinkles, Marie biscuits with icing drowned in hundreds-and-thousands, black and white grids, checkerboard tiles, visits to Mike's Kitchen, playful polka dots, big hair and even bigger shoulder pads. The revival of this 1980s Postmodern design language is a sure sign that the Memphis aesthetic still speaks to cultures of today. It represents a complete move away from the mid-century modern and simple Scandi trends that we’ve seen in recent years. The great news for those that feel the same is that prints based on Renée Rossouw’s vinyl design will be available to purchase from OKHA. For more information visit

See page 13 of our March issue to dive into our interpretation of the Memphis movement.