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Innovation and an appreciation of South Africa’s cultural diversity stand out in 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Regional Awards

Innovation is the standout quality that differentiates design resolutions and helps define architecture as special and appreciated by one’s peers. Innovation in sync with context provides the delight factor permitting architectural design to compete comfortably on the world stage. Technical skill, the ability to create memorable form that draws one in while treading softly on our planet is what puts the finishing touches to sustainable architecture. South African architecture continues to take positive strides also demonstrating an extra creative dimension unique in a country where the shaping of the urban landscape requires an appreciation of the complexities of creating an inclusive built environment. 


This was said by Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik, ahead of the 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, which are held annually to acknowledge and reward outstanding talent in South Africa.


The competition involves the country’s eight major universities where the best architectural students are identified based on their final thesis and presented with awards at regional events. The winners of each of the regional competitions then go on to compete for the national title at the 29th Corobrik Student Architect of the Year Awards in Johannesburg in May 2016


In Pretoria, Ockert van Heerden of Corobrik Sales Director presented prizes to the winners from the University of Pretoria.


Gillian van der Klashorst won first prize of R8 000, second prize of R6 500 went to Buckley Rodger and third prize of R4 500 was presented to Ursula Kotzè. An additional prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Marlette Burger. 


Gillian van der Klashorst’s thesis is entitled, Urban Observatory - Re-introducing Observation and Measurement to reveal the invisible city.

The Johannesburg Observatory site, situated on the highest point of the Witwatersrand, exhibits a history of the application of different types of viewing.   Currently unused as the night sky has been obscured by the city’s artificial radiance and pollution. The site is analysed with the aim of re-interpreting its inherent character and a weather station and astronomical observatory is proposed paying tribute to the historic value.

The proposed new function utilises the typology of the ‘observatory’, manifested as an independent Urban Observatory that ‘reads’ the city to create a better understanding of the environment, with the aim to facilitate informed strategy and policy making. This can be described as a research and interpretation centre to collect, map and measure observations, statistics, and data concerning the tangible and intangible conditions of the city.


In second place Buckley Rodger’s URBAN [infra]STRUCTURE uses a property in Brown Street to collect water which is treated.  In the process power is generated.  The project also handles recycling with Rodgers anticipating that several similar projects of varying scales be placed around Pretoria.


Ursula Kotze’s thesis The Forgotten [By-products of the daily exodus is located in Phomolong, Mamelodi.  Kotze’s design proposal is an early Childhood Development Centre with a public interface and horticulture production to caters for the informal settlement of Phomolong.  She focuses on the elderly dependents and children which do not take part in the daily exodus of the working class. 


Receiving the award for best use of clay is Marlette Burger.  She proposes converting an existing building on the corner of Helen Joseph and Sisulu Streets to be used by the public of Pretoria.    The rehabilitated structure will offer a public square, amphitheatre, restaurants, public showers and ablutions and will give small businesses an opportunity to operate.


Van Niekerk said that all of the winners had shown a close affinity with their subjects and that their designs both enhanced and integrated with the communities in which they were sited.


Speaking about trends in the profession Van Niekerk said that Corobrik had noticed a resurgence both internationally and locally in the appreciation of clay brick as a material with important flexibility in design and yet with intrinsic sustainable qualities so appropriate for advancing the affordability of government building projects.


“Whilst clay brick has always been well represented in high end commercial projects, we are seeing more of it being specified for public schools, hospitals, clinics and affordable housing because of the multiple benefits the material brings to a construction project,” Van Heerden said. 


“Life time aesthetics, durability and thermal efficiency are just three of the attributes of clay masonry which ensure low lifecycle costs and satisfy sustainability needs, in addition to allowing flexibility for innovative and aesthetically appealing design. These are important attributes which enable architects to create memorable and relevant additions to the built environment in South Africa using clay brick.”


Van Heerden said that the winners in the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards had shown outstanding maturity, innovation and technical skill in their designs which were a credit to the profession in both local and global terms.