Posted: 28 August 2020
GSA Files. Sarah Treherne. ST #17. © Fred Swart

Sarah Treherne
ST #17

Sarah Treherne is a storyteller, a city-dweller, an architect, and an optimist. She graduated at the top of her class with a Master’s in Architecture from the GSA in 2017, brushed up on “real-life architecture” for a bit, and, in 2019, Sarah launched Trace Architecture and Design Studio: a simple one-woman-show on a mission to change the world. How, one might ask? Well, that story is yet to unfold.


Q: What was your time at the GSA like?
A: M1 was a complete paradigm shift having come from a more traditional university. It was a struggle to adapt to this new, radical way of approaching architecture and the world around us; and interacting with our unit leaders as mentors instead of authorities. M2 just blew my mind, I’m not sure how else to put it. It was the most rewarding and profound experience of my life thus far.


Q: How has the GSA impacted your life?
A: The GSA has instilled in me an intrinsic curiosity; to question what is in front of me, to see the layers beneath the apparent skin. It has taught me to listen and learn – not to run away with the first idea that comes to mind or let myself remain comfortable in one perspective. There is always something more. I will have a lifetime of learning, discovery, and evolution – what more could one hope for?


Q: How do you think the GSA is shifting the profession?
A: There is no rule that architecture students must become architects, and - even if they do - there is no rule that architects must practice “architecture”. The GSA is equipping its alumni to question the purpose and practice of the profession – be it pushing the boundaries of materiality, rethinking standard protocol, delving into South Africa’s complex social and political landscapes, or nurturing a love for the gritty and golden city of Johannesburg, and the people that call her home.


Q: Did the GSA teach you to be an architect?
A: The GSA taught me that there is no concrete definition of an “architect”. There are a thousand ways to apply the skills and perspectives that I gained during my time at the GSA to the built environment and beyond. I do practice architecture in that I design spaces, issue drawings, choose between this grey and that only-slightly-different grey, and have an unhealthy relationship with my computer; but I also write and paint and drift into fairyland and imagine whole new worlds. Are they not both a function of architecture?


Q: What do you have to say to future applicants and the next generation of architects?
A: Dive in. Play. Experiment. Discover what you are passionate about and use it to change the world.


Q: How do you describe the movement we are creating at the school?
A: Radical. Ambitious. Devastating in the best way possible, and full of infectious optimism.


Q: Describe the GSA in one word / one sentence.
A: Insurgent.


Q: Which staff member made an impact on your life at the GSA.
A: Sumayya Vally, who can envision boundless potential in every one of her students and will spur them to think bigger and dig deeper. She is an epic talent and a beautiful soul.


Sarah Treherne - Unit 12 Alumni, 2017. Graphic Design: © DieAteljee

GSA Files is an initiative that tracks our past students, staff and critics, in an ongoing, live archive of works and networks. View more records on our GSA Files tab on our website: