Ilze and Heinrich Wolff, “Homage and Refusal”

A multi-level marketplace with many people walking around. In the ceiling there is a circular opening, allowing people to see upper floors.

(c) Dave Southwood

The GSD’s Spring 2021 Public Programs are all virtual and require registration.

Scroll down to find complete registration instructions and additional information about accessing the GSD’s programs.

Event Description

The work of Wolff Architects is rooted in practices of refusal and homage. By reading broadly; from texts to voids, from rousing music to silent images, from material to immaterial structures, knowledge creation is pursued whilst refusing the usual taxonomies of presentation, circulation and legitimisation. The coproduction of knowledge is fundamental to the collaboration between a husband and wife team with divergent interests and a wide range of collaborators, both inside and outside the office.

The practice of homage, particularly of black lives, is pursued concurrent with an ongoing critique of anti-blackness and its spatial manifestations. Homage follows immersion, meditation and research. An expanding sense of what spatial practice can be or should be, emerges out of projects of homage.

By sharing this work, we are concerned with developing an architecture of consequence and an enduring public culture, be it through activism, publications, exhibitions, performances or buildings. The public imagination can be expanded by bringing to life what has been lost or bringing into being what is yet to be imagined.

This event is supported by the Rachel Dorothy Tanur Memorial Lectureship Fund.

Screenshot of a virtual event. Ilze and Heinrich Wolff appear together in a small square on the right. A larger rectangle shows their PowerPoint presentation, which shows images of dried flowers and some people outdoors. Ilze and Heinrich Wolff and the PowerPoint are surrounded by a green background.

Screenshot from a virtual event. Rahul Mehrotra appears in a rectangle on the left, and Ilze and Heinrich Wolff appear together in a rectangle on the right. They are all surrounded by a green background.


Heinrich and Ilze Wolff are architects working in Cape Town, South Africa. Their practice is developing an architecture of consequence through the mediums of design, advocacy, research, documentation and art. Informed by the colonial history of their home in Cape Town, they established their architecture practice as a vehicle for addressing social inequities as well as the erasure of indigenous landscapes and narratives. At their space in Bo-Kaap they regularly host exhibitions, lectures and talks all concerned with developing an enduring public culture around the city, space and personhood.

Their practice has won several international and South African awards for excellence in research and design, most notably for public buildings such as schools and hospitals .

Heinrich‘s work has been exhibited internationally, the most significant exhibitions being the Museum of Modern Art (2010), the Venice Biennale (2006 & 2010), the Sao Paulo Architecture Biennale (2005, 2007 & 2019), the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2015 & 2019) and the South American Architecture Biennale – Ecuador (2008).

In 2011 Heinrich was selected as the Designer of the Future by the Wouter Mikmak Foundation (Netherlands). In 2007, he won the DaimlerChrysler Award for South African Architecture. With his practice Heinrich received the Lubetkin Award in 2006 from the RIBA for the Red Location Museum of Struggle.

Heinrich has been guest professor at various institutions; IUAVenice (2013), ETH Zürich (2014-15), Washington University, St. Louis (2016) and he taught at the Goa College of Architecture (2017) as the foreign visiting Charles Correa Chair. He was an associate adjunct professor at the University of Cape Town and was an honorary research fellow at the same  institution. He is currently teaching an Option Studio at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Ilze is the author of the award winning 2017 book ‘Unstitching Rex Trueform, the story of an African factory’ a biography of a Cape Town modernist garment factory and its entanglements with societal constructions of race, gender and space. She was shortlisted for the 2018 Architectural Review’s Moira Gemmil for emerging architects. In 2017-2019 she was a research fellow at the University of the Western Cape’s, Centre for Humanities Research researching UWCs historical spatial practices as a foundation from which to design a space for arts education for this historically black University.

She is the founder of the publication and research platform pumflet: art, architecture and stuff which focuses on black social and spatial imaginaries. pumflet has featured in various local and international platforms such as the Chicago Architecture Biennial (2019), the Centre for the less Good Idea (2018), Chimurenga, Institute for Creative Arts UCT (2019),  Performa NY (2020) and Publishing Against the Grain (ongoing). In 2017 Wolff Architects designed the exhibition architecture for African Mobilities: this is not a refugee camp, TUMunich, in collaboration with the curator Dr Mpho Matsipa.  It was awarded a silver design distinction award from the International Federation of Interior Design in 2019. Ilze regularly presents her research practice in talks, essays and exhibitions in various forums across the world including most recently, an essay in the Architectural Review on gardens as sites of resistance; in e-flux architecture as part of a series on confinement and home and in African Mobilities 2.0 on musical influences on design practice.

How to Join

Register to attend the lecture here. Once you have registered, you will be provided with a link to join the lecture via Zoom. This link will also be emailed to you.

The event will also be live streamed to the GSD’s YouTube page. Only viewers who are attending the lecture via Zoom will be able to submit questions for the Q+A. If you would like to submit questions for the speakers in advance of the event, please click here.

Live captioning will be provided during this event. A transcript will be available roughly two weeks after the event, upon request.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].