Guy Ailion is one of South Africa’s brightest young architects. The winner of SA’s 2010 National Architectural Student of the Year award for his M.A.Thesis Everywhere is Here: Architecture and a Developing Information Society, his design is informed by a dual fascination with moving images and the urban environment. Not only is he revolutionizing the way South Africans think about space and light and living he is also helping to move the country in a more environmentally-progressive direction.
I Am Driven By | My bicycle. A vintage Riley Racer. 6 gears.
My Highlights | I was luckily enough to design a public sculpture/pavilion for KSR Architects that was erected in the Camden Town, London as a symbol of their hidden creative communities. The design saw 640 coloured tubes dangling above the heads of thousands of daily pedestrians. A few years ago I wrote and directed a short film with a group of talented South Africans about Johannesburg love hate relationship with its gold mining legacy. After winning an international award the following year, the film has now done more travelling now than I have. After failing my first design project in first year university, six years later I was awarded as the top National student in Architecture for my thesis and design.
Lessons I Have Learnt | I have over the last years begun to build my totem for design, thinking and business. And that is: Empathy, Simplicity, and Narrative. Empathy can be argued endlessly whether it is a natural or nurtured characteristic of man. It is of course both. But while we may have the genetic potential for it, it is only secured and grown through the conscious effort of those around us while we are children, and of ourselves as adults. We should be aware that becoming empathetic takes effort and observance. By truly understanding someone else’s point of view at a physical and deeply emotional level, you are given a great power. The power of relating and understanding. It is this understanding of others views and feelings that allows one to address someone at a personal level, to motivate them, to draw out the answers you are looking for, to know why a design doesn’t work, to provide a solution that is not yours but theirs. In the world of design this is a fundamental skill to success and being great at what you do. I believe that all great leaders and successful designers are empathetic.
I have always said that creativity is a complicated dish best served simply. Simplicity is a wonderful art to search for. It is certainly an infinite struggle but the search for it is a discipline that renders only great design and thought. I have learnt a vast amount of knowledge from Maeda’s The Laws of Simplicity and Ching’s Form, Space and Order, both of which are a design bible to me. To distil an idea in its most simple form, is to bring clarity to your message. The best tool I have is the diagram. Whether is it a speech to write, a hypothesis, a product, a building, or a grocery list, I diagram everything f*cking thing. A diagram helps you begin to remove the clutter and peel away to the core of your intention. This is when you find its function. And because beauty is a product of form and function, where function fails there is no beauty. Finally, the idea of narrative the ability to communicate through storytelling. Any idea that is communicated badly is an idea lost forever. For a Comedian that might be the deafening silence after a missed punch line, for an Advertising Director it’s a team that has that isn’t selling, or for the Head of Design it’s a team that has no solutions, for the lonely Man in the crowd it’s the friends who are not listening anymore. We all grew up absorbing lessons of life through bedtime stories, family dinners, conversations, an evening playing charades, and spreading playground gossip. It is not just the ability to tell stories that I think is important, but the foresight to see them, find them, and make them. Front covers don’t sell millions of books, it’s the story inside them that does. We should all focus on becoming best-selling authors of ourselves and everything we want to communicate. And play more charades!
Dealing With Doubt | I don’t know the answer to conquering self-doubt fear is a unique product of our very own individual memories and childhood experience, not one of us has the same issues or solutions. But a little self-doubt can also help you be critical and listen more. I think I just don’t bother worrying about failing until the work is done and the deadline has passed. This way the doubt doesn’t stop you from being creative and doing what needs to be done. Your creativity is the better looking version of yourself but he/she is also all of your addictions, your insecurities, and your fears all bundle up. Your very own Tyler Durdon. If you embrace this creative dichotomy you will surprise yourself by doing incredible things.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | Make lots of things.
The Meaning Of Life | The no. 42
The Best Advice I’ve Received | The best advice I ever received was in my first design class at university. After a lengthy discussion over what was a questionable design proposal, I had failed my first big project. A guest professor who had studied under Frank Lloyd Wright said to me in his own words, that there was no definite route to success but a sure route to failure is to try and impress everyone. Thereafter, I stuck to my guns and fought hard on behalf of my opinions and instincts. I never failed another project. I later looked up that advice a few years later and have recorded it in my mind: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone” Bill Cosby.
On Inspiring Others | Enthusiasm is a contagious magic. That said, only when it is delivered with absolute sincerity and purpose does it have the power of a great placebo. The people who win at charades, you might say, are the people who have the instinct for this magic. The player in charge who gets wildly animated gets excited, smiles too much, pull strange expressions, wave their hands frantically, and with an eager stance they steadily increase the pace of the room and finally jump for joy the moment their team mates shout out the answer. I’m not saying we need to run around our office or studios waving our hands in the air in a transcendental dance. But also, why not. The lesson is that to motivate people we need to not only encourage their ability, but to show them the potential they cannot see yet. And to get them to actually listen we need to be sincere and enthusiastic. Our instincts are to follow those that inspire us because those are the individuals who will get us to where we want to be. My goals are never reached on my own and that’s because they are shared by the people around me. It is only when you are all in it together, both motivated and enthusiastic, that you may not realise the magic you started with has been sprinkled on you too.
I Am Inspired By | My Parents are my role models whose partnership of personalities, successes and love for one another, has been a constant beat in my heart worth dancing to forever. My inspirations are many, and so they should be. Here are a few: John Maeda a mind that brings together, with Applelike style and clarity the disciplines of technology, simplicity, design, leadership, and business. Richard Branson a fierce creator and business inspiration. A man who would win a charades no doubt. Emmanuel Pratt A nomadic think tank who leaves a trail of inspiration cake and creativity behind him for people to feed on. He got me started on some film and architectural cheese cake.
Kevin Lynch A romantic theorist and writer of urban planning and the human perception of cities as place. Wes Anderson A colourful story telling genius and creator of twisted and immersive narratives. Pablo Picasso For remaining a child genius and reminding us to look at things not only differently, but with bright eyes.