Design Matters Architects is characterised by a very strong commitment to design. We believe in high quality personal service and attention to detail at all stages of the building process, from concept to completion.

We are interested in architecture in its broadest sense, from the aesthetic and compositional to historical and critical approaches to design; from the practical and instrumental to the theoretical in postapartheid South Africa; from building and writing to exhibitions and representation; and from the urban constraints of cities to the rural landscapes of southern Africa and beyond.

As a consequence of this broad engagement we offer a full range of services, including architecture, heritage assessment and research, development planning, landscape and urban design, interior architecture, sustainability planning and financial appraisals. The practice provides the client with highly qualified and experienced professionals, ensuring that each project has the benefit of the full range of services by specialist professionals.
Projects begin with space. The space of discussion and assessment, the physical space of the sites, the space of establishing a client architect relationship and the space of creativity. This is combined with the technical aspects of deciding on a brief, understanding the specific council regulations, constraints, and taking time to think through planning, phasing, design and construction concerns which are considered in conjunction in order to produce a product that is both cost effective and of a high quality.
Projects mature into ideas developed through understanding the client needs, site possibilities and architectural form, connecting people with space. Sketched out ideas become possibilities, communicated through design concepts, ideas about building, responses to site, concept models, plans, 3d drawings, photographs and sketches. At the outset, design studies are undertaken to enable a range of options to be explored. This ensures the most thorough and cost effective solutions are produced.
Design development involves the imagining of a building, the distillation of ideas, the organising of plans, and the turning into reality. Concern for elegance, simplicity, and efficiency extends from the concept of the building scheme to the detailing of the smallest components. Each commission is treated in an individual manner and enveloped through all stages in close collaboration with the client, producing a creative flexible scheme.
Buildings have to be sustainable, artistically pleasing and functionally robust. Imaginings are turned into technical documentation, final plans, municipal approvals, construction details, tender packages, and detailed to the smallest scale. At this stage rational approaches to design are combined with practical sensibility,
Built with care, using carefully selected and environmentally appropriate materials, projects take shape. This is the ‘bricks and mortar’ phase in which contract administration is as important as site inspections and on-site design decision-making. It is the world of building and of builders; of selecting samples and choosing finishes and fittings; of engaging with the creative process of construction; and the careful managing of finances towards final completion.
All work is managed personally through these five stages by principal architects and executed in-house in order to ensure that workloads are controlled thus making sure that close attention is provided to each project. Design Matters places high value on building sustainable buildings and ensuring quality and excellence of service at all times.
Matthew Cooke, (Pr.Arch, B.Arch, UCT, SACAP) is a professionally registered architect with fifteen years experience. Architecture is a very familiar field to Matthew who grew up surrounded by architects, both in practice and in academia. Having travelled widely, combining his love of mountains and architecture, and having experienced many of the world’s best buildings and worked in the UK he was one of the founding partners of Design Matters in 1993.

His approach to design reflects this in-depth understanding of architecture and the making of buildings across a range of scales from the domestic to urban and commercial projects. He has collaborated with variously with amongst others GAPP Architects and Urban Designers, Architects Associated, Mike Smuts Architects and Urban Designers, Revel Fox and Partners, as well as attended courses for a Taught Masters in Design under Prof. Roelof Uytenbogaardt at the University of Cape Town.

Noëleen Murray, (BAS, B.Arch, M.Arch (dist), PhD Cape Town) joined Design Matters Architects as an Associate in 1995. Her involvement with the practice has involved design concept development, heritage practice, environmental and Green planning, project management and public participation consultancy for clients amongst others the University of Cape Town and the Western Cape Provincial Government.

In addition she has taught variously in the Schools of Architecture and Planning and the Centre for African Studies at the Universities of Cape Town, the Western Cape and the Witwatersrand and regularly acts as an external examiner. She has published and travelled widely.