Q&A with Dustin Tusnovics Architect

What is your biggest achievement over the past year? I guess my own house in Kensington, which I have managed to finish just in time for the festive season. Creating a space that really gives me immense joy to live in and to share with friends, family and my pets.


My house in Kensington (Dustin Tusnovics)


What about the biggest challenge? This very same house. Dealing with all the challenges of working with an old structure and dealing with water leakages, old windows, broken timber floors – the list is long, but working with existing buildings is a stimulating challenge and I am winning.


My workspace (Dustin Tusnovics)


What are your top priorities for the year ahead? Working, working and more working. Looking forward to work on the projects on my desk at the moment and make each project a very unique solution to the challenges involved. At the same time I will be dedicating time to travelling around South Africa but also abroad.


Working, working, working on some old chairs (Dustin Tusnovics)


What excites you? A good coffee, a good glass of wine... a stimulating project and off course I really enjoy a good trip abroad for more inspiration.

What in the heritage sector makes your blood boil? This is a tricky question... Bad architecture! Unfortunately moving around the country the number of ‘good’ buildings is very scarce – but that said, the good ones then really result even more – one of these great examples is definitely the Circa Gallery building in Rosebank, and some smaller buildings spread over our suburbs with innovative and smart solutions – maybe these then make my blood boil in a very stimulating and positive way.


Circa Gallery (The Heritage Portal)


What is heritage to you? I had the luck to be ‘dragged’ around Greece and Turkey, Lebanon and Syria before I was 15 years old, and I loved the historical sites, sometimes only piles of collapsed columns and blocks that thousands of years before had been majestic temples and theatres...


Ephesos Library Turkey (Dustin Tusnovics)


After abandoning the idea of becoming an archaeologist, I opted for architecture and studied in Vienna (Austria) and Venice (Venice) and that has made me appreciate and understand heritage as being a stimulant and not a hindrance.

Building, designing always happens in context to the existing and your surroundings – so one always deals with the existing – and this context is the motor for good architecture.

Who has had the biggest impact on your professional life and why? The list is long but let me pick out Architect Will Allsop who assisted me with my doctorate. He always said, an architect needs to take a break of three months every year to do something totally different. I have used this approach all my life and had the luck that each project has been so different to the other that I am living exactly this way.

Tell us about some memorable projects. Hard to choose – each project becomes memorable – especially working with pre-existing structures. The unexpected is always there and it is the mastering of these challenges that makes each project special – whether it is one of my first projects in a neoclassical palazzo in Vienna for an international consulting company, or the transformation of a former garage and staff quarters into a unique private house in Emmarentia, or building a community centre with innovative building materials in a remote location in Limpopo – the challenges are many and each project turns memorable. This is also why my practice is called SpaceMatters – because I really believe it does.


Tubatse Community Center, Burgersfort, Limpopo (Dustin Tusnovics)


Have you won any awards? I have won a few, yes. But I have never been in search for awards, good results and a satisfied client is my biggest reward.

What advice would you give someone starting out in heritage? Be not afraid. Use your imagination. Learn to see the things around you.


A chair made of a chopping board (Dustin Tusnovics)


What is your favourite heritage site and why? The Bagan Pagodas in Myanmar (Burma), the last 6 columns standing at the Roman Temple of Jupiter in Baalbek (Lebanon), the Constitutional Court Precinct in Johannesburg... these are places that fill me with awe. Yet, my favourite sites are the small gems one discovers walking around in the city – places that are often hidden and unbeknown to many, give me even more joy.


‘The Pagodas in Bagan, Myanmar’ (Dustin Tusnovics)


What is your claim to fame outside the heritage world? Cooking – I love constructing food and dishes and am lucky enough to now be able to do this in my recently refurbished house and my new kitchen.


View across my kitchen (Dustin Tusnovics)