Born and bred in Wartburg, a small sugarcane farming community located northeast of Pietermaritzburg, Koch’s life path was evident from an early age. ‘At my pre-school interview, the principal asked me to draw a house – I drew a house plan,’ he reminisces. That was to be only the beginning.
After matriculating, Koch followed his father’s advice and moved to Pretoria in 2004 to commence his studies in civil engineering. His passion for architecture soon eclipsed this risk-averse path and he embarked on his six-year journey into architecture at TUT launching his career at Pattichides & Partners in 2010. Subsequently, he was given the opportunity to collaborate with a contractor in 2013, which granted him the necessary personal client base to establish JK Designs in July 2014.
Koch’s business creed, ‘walk the walk, and talk the talk’ was evident when he opened office in a 250 square metre space where he could entertain his prospective clients. Even though his vision was fuelled with 95 percent faith, an aggressive approach to building a business suited to his high echelon clientele was well received. He was soon able to recruit architects and technologists who shared his vision and principles.
From inception, Koch envisioned JK Designs as a client-centric firm that would not only promote emotive design, but also educate and support its clientele through every step of each individual project. His aim was to integrate the client’s psyche with the space they would inhabit. He explains: ‘The home is an extension of individual personality and each project should resonate with the client.’ Koch’s fascination with psychology is evident in his designs: The introduction of narrow passages encourages faster movement, while meandering pathways with small stepping-stones subconsciously influence the user to slow down and appreciate the landscape.
What makes JK Designs different to any other architectural firm? They’re involved in the project from the conceptual phase to handing over of keys. Says Koch: ‘As the Principle-Agent our role is to be involved throughout the entire process, from identifying a stand, designing the home, managing the construction and completing the build by furnishing the home with artwork and furniture. After the initial meeting with the clients, we present them with a visual representation of their home through the use of virtual reality and videos. Our current app allows clients to view a 3D model of their future home, enabling them to request changes and track progress. This software is merely the backbone of a future app currently under development which will allow the client full access to plan and design their home remotely. Clients are not limited to alterations and receive a monthly progress report.’
In 2015, Koch took another leap of faith after meeting Dwayne Olivier, who shared his vision and had the passion to expand his business model into the commercial arena. Olivier, who soon became a 50 percent shareholder, is committed to challenging stagnant industry norms by introducing personalised holistic design solutions for commercial spaces.
This synergy led to considerable expansion. Influenced by the economic crash in 2008, Koch identified JK Designs’ need for self-efficiency. With this in mind, he recruited a team of professionals to head independent, yet affiliated companies, including interior designers, engineers and a development company called Prime Developments. Each reports to a single project manager as client liaison appointee. These companies form a micro-economy, each supporting the JK Designs brand and mitigating the high-risk commercial segment. Other industry supporting companies are in the pipeline and will form part of this group of companies.
The project manager is the sole liaison to the client and acts as their proxy by handling disputes, overseeing progress and, as a result, ensuring that each project is a pleasing experience for the client.
The Blue Hills Equestrian & Country Estate project is a prime example of JK Designs’ comprehensive approach. Here, they curated an exhibition – showcasing stand locations, architectural / interior options, plus various technological solutions, such as home automation and entertainment systems.
Prospective clients were presented with four augmented reality videos, each demonstrating options to use as an initial foundation for developing their personalised design. After the client had established location and architectural choice, they could then view various supplier options for kitchen installations, finishes, furnishings, wall cladding, flooring and artwork. Leading collaborators included: Roche Bobois, Neolith, Eurocasa, Enel and Samsung.
This exhibition encapsulated all elements involved in building a home, illustrating the group’s client centric business philosophy. The response was overwhelming and JK Designs are in the planning stage of the next presentation, which will be held in Helderfontein.
Future plans? Johann Koch and Dwayne Olivier will soon be publishing Building a House Sucks in their quest to educate the public on everything there is to know before considering building a new home.
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