The Heroine’s Journey of Sylvia Rossouw-Watson

What is the best thing that I love about my work? I love the way my architecture practice is a place for discipline, clarity of thought and seemingly effortless execution, while my art practise is an endless weaving process.

What is my idea of happiness? Happiness is having the time to do my work, well. With my creative needs satisfied, everything else becomes a joy.

What is my greatest fear? No means to express myself creatively, is my worst case scenario.

What is the trait that I most deplore in myself? Life is really just to short to entertain spells of self-doubt, followed by procrastination and the inevitable guilt. When I strike this mode, I try and keep it short and sweet.

Which living persons in my profession do I most admire I admire people, whose complex work seems effortless in execution. Architects, Jeremy McLeod and Tamara Veltre have been in the forefront of sustainable architecture for the last 20 years. There is a gentle simplicity and effortlessness in their environmental positive design. Similarly, artist, Agnes Denes has been involved climate change issues for the last 50 years. Her work is an inspiration in its extraordinary vision, spot on positioning and seemingly effortless, large scale execution.

What is my greatest extravagance? I use our heirloom porcelain and silver on a daily basis.

On what occasion would I lie? Lies always manifest in one way or another. I avoid it.

What is the thing that I dislike the most in my work? Getting the invoices ready every month, is a task I have never enjoyed. It makes no sense, because who does not like to receive money?

When and where was I the happiest, in my work? RIGHT NOW! It feels like I have been preparing my entire life for this moment in time.

If I could, what would I change about myself? I would speak less.

What is my greatest achievement in work? Starting an architecture practise, with my husband, five years ago, feels like an ongoing achievement. To still be struggling with my art practise, with absolute dedication and passion, after all these years, is a glorious achievement.

Where would I most like to live? I am always happy with clear blue skies above me and some water nearby. I moved into a rather derelict old whiskey distillery, out in the countryside, last year and I am happy to stay put for a while. For the first time I am able to combine home life with my art studio and work remotely to the architecture practise, which makes my life seamless and an absolute joy.

What is my most treasured possession? A light, blue alarm clock that belonged to my Grandmother. The clock dates back to the 1950s, a bit rusty and got stuck on 09h00.

What is my most marked characteristic? Someone once said, “There is just too much of you”. I call it an unstoppable passion for life.

What is my most inspirational location, in my city? The natural swimming pools, down the road, is a sanctuary on a hot day.

What is my favourite place to eat and drink, in my city? I love feasting outside, whether on my veranda at home, or a picnic out in nature.

What books influenced my life and how? I read The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera, at the age of 15. It opened my eyes to the power woman have. The “heaviness” of Teresa, versus the “lightness” of Sabina became a lifelong exploration of the possibilities at play. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like, if I did not read that book.

You Only Die Once. What music would I listen on my last day? Metallica, Vivaldi and Mendelson, for its ability to sweep me away.

Who is my heroines in fiction and real life? My heroines in fiction and real life share the same characteristics. They are unapologetic and fearless in pushing their own boundaries.

The fictional Morticia Addams, from the television and film series, the Adams Family, made a big impression on me, growing up. She is scary, with a feline femininity and a sense of power and allure. She resembles ancient queens of Mesopotamia and brings the dark and forbidden to light in a playful way. The cat eye liner, pale skin, coffin red nails, flame sharp wit and off beat personality makes her a rather unusual, but much loved as a mother and wife.

Fashion designer, Vivienne Westwood, has the same, unapologetic approach. She has the ability to masterfully execute her wildest creations. She is unstoppable in the way the narrative keeps evolving and unfolding.

Which movie would I recommend to see once in a lifetime? Pulp Fiction, for its Post Modern ability to tell numerous stories, simultaneously and from various angles. It is dark, but made with absolute clarity.

What role does stories play in my life and work? My life and work is one big interwoven story..

Architectural projects are created with the narrative of the site, the context of the built environment and the stories my client’s tell me about their visions and dreams. Every building element also has its own inherent story, which adds to the overall narrative of the built form.

The narratives of my art work unfolds in the art making process. They are inspired by forgotten objects, derelict buildings, forgotten places, a longing and a constant search for the truth within .

What do the words ‘You are the storyteller of your own life’ mean to me?

I am in control of how I view my experiences and how I choose to live it. I literally make the story, as I go along.

Who is my greatest fan, sponsor, partner in crime? My Mom has always been my warning bell, but biggest fan. My husband is my harshest critic, but always up for a new adventure, with a bit of convincing.

Which people or companies would I like to work with in 2021?

I am currently in conversation with one of Brittan’s art heroes and would love to work with Vogue magazine to publish the in depth conversation.

I would love to work with my heroine, Vivienne Westwood on a feature for Wallpaper Magazine.

Which people in my profession who can make a real difference in my creative career would I love to meet in 2021?

I would love to meet the New York art critic, Jerry Saltz and have a fat chat about art and all its madness.

I would love to meet South African born artists, Marlene Dumas and Robin Rhoode, who currently resides in Amsterdam and Berlin respectively and talk about their international journey.

I would love to meet the White Chapel Gallery in London to explore a wider audience.

What project, in 2021, am I looking forward to work on?

I am always excited to work our current architectural projects. They often span over a few years. It is a beautiful ebb and flow process.

I am currently busy with my second body of work for 2021, which I aim to complete by the end of the year.

Where can you see me or my work in 2021?

I am exhibiting at the Biennale Internazional in Rome, in September 2021. The Biennale will take place at the beautiful Villa Della Rinchiostra from 3 September 20201.

You can find me on:

What do the words “Passion Never Retires” mean to me? Passion is the blood in my veins. It is my life force.

Which creative heroines/heroes should Peter invite to tell their story?

Marlene Dumas, artist.

Robin Rhode, artist.

Francisca Louw at

Theresa Hardman at

How can you contact me?

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