// Company Profile

THA Architecture & Design, now U2 Design Lab, was established in Durban ten years ago by principal architect, Torbjörn Hanssen, a University of Port Elizabeth graduate and Des Baker Award winner.

Focusing on the high-end residential market along the KwaZulu-Natal north coast, the practice quickly made a name for itself, and has completed 40 homes in exclusive Moreland Developments communities, including Zimbali Estate, Stratford Gardens and Ilala Ridge. By complementing its residential portfolio with a range of commercial and industrial projects, the firm has evolved into a multifaceted practice.

'As a young firm, you have to make a name for yourself,' explains Hanssen. 'However, creativity has to be balanced with an efficient operational structure. As can be seen by our Lincoln on the Lake project, the introduction of Revit has not only enabled us to take our creativity to new heights, but also accelerated design time and ensured that activities, such as the production of construction documentation, are carried out quickly and accurately.' Lincoln on the Lake is a commercial building, designed by THA for Growthpoint Properties. The R60-million building, located in the new Umhlanga town centre, features a neo-classical style. It has a strong Sullivanesque influence, which was developed in Chicago in the 1920 and 30s with the aim of enhancing the appearance of utilitarian buildings. In Umhlanga, the Sullivanesque influence is a strong counterpoint to the contemporary steel and glass of many corporate headquarters.

Purpose built for building information modelling (BIM), Revit enables architects to easily create a single digital model that contains all project information – sections, elevations, floor plans, 3D models and schedules. Hanssen used the software to model the seven-storey building, which has two basements and ground floor shops, in three weeks – about a quarter of the time it would have taken to create concepts and documents using 2D software, like AutoCAD. Torbjorn Hanssen, principal architect, graduated in 1999 with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Port Elizabeth, and was awarded the prestigious Murray & Roberts – Des Baker Award for Students of Architecture.From 2000 to 2002, Torbjorn worked for Stafford Associate Architects,and thereafter, being entrepreneurial and independent by nature, worked as an associate architect for a range of practices before forming his own.

THA Architecture & Design's vision has always been to offer clients the full benefits of cutting-edge technology, while maintaining a balance between innovative, creative design and the practicalities of function. The practice enjoys a reputation for advanced graphics, and its recent implementation of the latest software REVIT, enables clients to enjoy lifelike/ accurate visualisation of their projects. This young, dynamic, fully South African company is committed to working locally, and thinking globally. From its inception, the THA focus was on upper income residential homes, and in 2005, they complemented this with a range of commercial and industrial design projects. The practice has now evolved into a multifaceted one, with numerous successes in both arenas. THA is well established in most of the gated estates along the KwaZulu-Natal North Coast, having completed 40 homes in these estates to date.The practice has completed 15 residential developments in and around Mount Edgecombe 2 Estate, while refurbishing the commercial sector of John Ross House in Durban's CBD. Completed and current projects include Sutherland Home Furnishings stores in Durban's Riverhorse Valley and Johannesburg, Fairfield Dairy in Howick, and Lincoln on the Lake in Newtown Centre, Umhlanga.