Above: This photo was taken during a safari drive one night at sunset. Travis attributes the beauty of the sunrises and sunsets to the wide-open spaces on the safari.

For Ascent’s Travis Smith, three weeks spent traveling abroad highlighted the relationship between a country’s structure and architectural structure.

At Ascent Architecture & Interiors, we believe our life experiences are an important part of shaping our approach to architecture, which is why we encourage our team to travel, explore architecture, and share what they discover with the rest of us. Here’s another exciting installation of “Architecture Abroad,” in which we’ll travel with Project Coordinator Travis Smith, Assoc. AIA, and learn about his experiences abroad.

Here are two white rhinos Travis and Colleen stumbled upon while out on a safari drive one night. They also saw two black rhinos (of the roughly 5,000 left). They are one of the “Big Five” animals. The others are Lion, Leopard, Elephant and Cape Buffalo. They saw all except the leopard (who eluded the safari for 3 days).

In August of 2017, Travis set out to see Africa with his wife, Colleen, on a trip they purchased at the Humane Society of Central Oregon Tuxes & Tails Benefit (attending is an annual tradition for the Ascent team). While the original goal of their trip was to see African wild animals in their natural habitats, Travis also spent time taking in the varying architecture of South Africa, portions of the Netherlands, and Paris.

Travis and Colleen spent 12 days in Johannesburg, Cape Town, and the KwaZulu-Natal province. In Johannesburg they visited the Lion and Safari Park. From there they traveled to KwaZulu-Natal to see the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve.

The design that Travis noticed the most on the trip was at the Zulu Nyala Game Reserve. “My favorite designs were the lodges at Zulu Nyala,” said Travis. “All the lodges were stone and log column construction with thatched roofs, and the walls were just infilled between the log columns and stone supports. The thatched roofs were a minimum of 12” thick, tied tightly together and supported openly on the interior by log joists and log beams. I liked looking at the roof and wall construction and visually/mentally deconstructing it to figure out how it was assembled and what the weather protection benefits were for the local climate.”

While in Cape Town, Travis saw the Simon’s Town beach penguins, visited the Cape of Good Hope and Hout Bay, and admired Table Mountain. He also explored the various districts of the City Center and strolled along the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, where he observed a section that was being redeveloped and repurposed. “The coolest part (of this area) by far was the old grain silo from the 1920s which had been renovated into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa,” said Travis. “This is a great example of rehabilitating cool old structures to meet today’s urbanization goals. While it’s not appropriate to keep every old building, it is great when developers and architects are able to re-purpose structures like this one.” Find some photos of the Zeitz Museum here.

Travis noted that, like many major cities, Cape Town had tall skyscrapers downtown, but that this changed outside of the downtown area. “Outside downtown there are no buildings higher than three stories, except for these three apartment towers,” said Travis. “Prior to the construction of these apartment towers, there was no construction height limitation. As soon as those towers were constructed the city adopted a height restriction, so the view of Table Mountain would never be restricted.”

This was taken in the open-air market in St. Lucia where all the locals bring their goods for sale or trade. This is where Travis bought our staff amazing gifts as a thanks for holding down his workload.

After spending time in South Africa, the Smiths traveled to the Netherlands where they spent time taking in local sights, walking the streets and canals of Amsterdam, visiting the windmills of Edam, and even seeing how wooden shoes are made in Marken. Our team at Ascent might be most jealous of their tour in Volendam, where they visited a local cheese factory and a “stroopwafel” factory (a national favorite sweet treat that resembles a flat crispy waffle, more like a waffle cone than a waffle).

One day was spent taking a quick train ride to Paris, France, to take in some of the architectural highlights: the Eifel Tower, Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Pompidou.

Travis’ travels to Europe and Africa, and the experiences he shared with the rest of the Ascent Architecture & Interiors team when he returned, give our architects and designers a unique and fresh perspective about international architecture and design (and also make us crave some stroopwafel). Although we’re always designing specifically for each client, a broader experience with architecture ensures we’re prepared to try new things and bring a new approach to each project.

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