Top3Tuesday: Themba Mekwa

Themba Mekwa describes himself as a design advocate. He is an architect and founding partner of The MAGI Starchitecture; a fledgling practice based in Johannesburg, concentrating on concept-to-market developments, with emphasis on collaborative design and critical process. Mekwa graduated from the the University of Cape Town and  spent a few years at Revel Fox & Partners. He subsequently moved on form the practice to oversee the FIFA 2010 World Cup Legacy Project – Mokopane with San Francisco based non profit Architecture for Humanity. A young professional with entrepreneurial ambitions, Mekwa is also an avid follower of basketball and a sports enthusiast who draws parallels between modern team dynamics and corporate leadership cultures.

This week’s Top3Tuesday  is a combination of design ideals, concepts and products that capture Themba’s attention currently. Let’s see what three things interest him.

3. SA 3rd Economy: The Informal Sector

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We’ve all seen him. As you’re pulling out of your driveway, there he is, in your bin. Looking for recyclables and he’s really particular. Plastic and glass bottles, cardboard and newspaper. Its refuse collection day and your bin’s not safe…
The idea that someone can find value in things we throw away has great meaning for me. It also has great significance for our economy. Recyclable goods are collected from our bins and traded at local depots for petty cash as a means of income. Our garbage contributes to the livelihood of our guy. His efforts contribute to micro economic activity which combined with that of street vendors, traders, tuck shop owners etcetera forms a formidable sector which has come to be known as The Informal Market.

People design their lives in one way or another. Here is one example. Great design is always looking to solve a need or problem. In the case of our guy, its about survival. Design should contribute to the upliftment of everyday life.

2. SAAB 900 Turbo SE


The 900 Turbo was a breakthrough car for Swedish automobile manufacturer SAAB. First released in the late 70s, it was the company’s first attempt at a commercial luxury vehicle
for its global markets. The model featured independent suspension, ABS, heated seats and a turbo engine. The headlight wipers are #swag. I love everything about this car. From the rear lights and cheeky spoiler, to the ever so lingering tension of the body design that is part rally car, part family station wagon (An ode to SAAB’s history of rally success and priority on safety design) Apparently its called the ‘Architect’s car’. Simplicity over complexity. I’m smiling.


1. Active Citizenship in Nation Building

constitutional court. omm design workshop
constitutional court. omm design workshop
South Africa is a young nation. What does this mean to me? It means that each and every citizen has the responsibility upon them to contribute to the sustainable development of a cohesive, inclusive society. Nothing is written in stone, except our constitution. For a long time it seemed that citizens have been unhappy yet un-wanting to put action to see positive change. This itself is changing. South Africans are now standing up to voice opinions on many issues, poverty and service delivery, education and gender equality, economic freedom and access. We hear the grumblings of a nation waking up. Active citizenship is critical for any thriving democracy. Social constructs must be interrogated to see if they carry relevance or push the status-quo. Mobilisation to effect changes in policies and legislature that contribute so much to our lives is Design. For the people. By the people.