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Innovation blends with sustainability, social awareness and technical excellence in 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Regional Awards

Innovative thinking is the mark of a fine architect and it will take innovation to meet the architectural challenges of the future. The many aspects which make up fine design include the principles of sustainability, appropriate built cost and attractive lifecycle costs, technical skill and an appreciation of the social context of a structure in its community. However, it is creative flair that sets great architects above their peers as they strive to make exceptional and meaningful contributions to South Africa’s diverse and multi-cultural landscape. 


This was evident in the run-up to the 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, according to Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik.


The competition has been held annually for the past 28 years to reward and advance excellence in the profession nationwide.  It starts with regional rounds at eight major universities throughout South Africa. Then, the overall national winner from among the regional finalists is named and presented with a cheque for R50 000 at the 29th Architectural Student of the Year Awards function in Johannesburg on 11 May 2016.  


Ockert van Heerden, Corobrik Sales Director presented prizes to architectural students of Tshwane University of Technology. The regional winner of R8 000 was Ulrich Pieterse, with Brendon Williams receiving the R6 500 second prize and Christelle Coetzee taking home the third prize of R4 500. The prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay was won by Rohan van Eerden.


Ulrich Pieterse’s thesis is ‘The design of an institute for the documentation of fossil heritage in Nieu Bethesda, Karoo’

The dissertation deals with the making of a palaeontological research and display centre to document fossils from the Nieu Bethesda area and the Karoo. The project acts as catalyst for the creation of a satellite campus for the use by South African universities and scientists. It will allow the study of prehistoric biodiversity and geology to understand how and why mass extinctions occur. Pieterse proposed that the facility address the need for an educational institute and tourism destination for palaeontology in the Karoo. The building could be described as a contemporary interpretation of past events that formed the Karoo, celebrating the geological and palaeontological importance of the region. This centre aims to become a place of celebration, education, and research open to the public. 


In second place, Brendon Williams’ thesis is ‘A centre for the preservation and cultivation of Bushmen Culture in Andriesvale, Northern Cape.’


This thesis investigates the conservation of the Khoisan “Bushman”.


Williams project identifies a lack of understanding of this complex society amongst the contemporary South African and attempts to highlight the importance of securing a future for the Khoisan and their traditional ways of life. The project will create awareness among the community of South Africa by means of public exhibition facilities focused on the remaining Khoisan community and their indigenous knowledge for the benefit of future generations.


The proposed Centre will be placed in the centre of currently Bushman-occupied land in the Kalahari and will serve as a milestone in the struggle for the Khoisan in securing a future heritage for their people.

Christelle Coetzee’s entry is entitled, ‘Transforming Ndlovu Node.’  It is the design of an ecological observatory in Phalaborwa.   Situated at the existing PMC Copper and FOSCOR phosphate mine south of the town of Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province.   Coetzee said that the mining activities have left an enormous scar in the natural landscape, this particular site was chosen for its location and close proximity to the Kruger National Park. Surrounded by rivers and an abundance of animal and plant life, the site holds great potential for future environmental rehabilitation and adaptive re-use of existing infrastructure.  She believed that it will establish a new connection between humankind, nature and the built environment. 

The new building programme concentrates on the study of environmental, climatic and meteorological processes that play out at different time scales. The proposed architecture should ultimately respond to these ecological changes and be the tangible link revealing environmental change. Ultimately the proposed project should form part of SAEON’s (South Africa Environmental Observation Network) larger environmental observation framework, with the transforming Ndlovu Node being a landmark and the new core site of the Savannah biome. 

Rohan van Eeden’s award for the best use of clay brick in his design of a Biophilic Wastewater Treatment Facility in Diepsloot.  Williams said he selected Corobrik satin face brick to be used on faceted brick facades. These facades consist of solid brickwork infill, open latticed brickwork as well as feature walls with brick patterns. An open lattice is achieved by removing the headers in a Flemish bond, thereby allowing for light penetration, ventilation, solar shading and maintaining the continuity of the brick skin. This texture plays an important role in diffusing sound, and dissuading graffiti taggers.


“The right choice of materials plays a key role in the architectural process, particularly when one considers the sustainability imperative”, said van Heerden.


“Clay brick is a fine example of a sustainable building material which offers a myriad of benefits, whilst adding distinctive aesthetic and textural appeal and the ability to meet unique challenges in design and construction. Brick in application can accommodate virtually any shape or form.” 


“From an economic point of view, clay brick requires minimal maintenance and provides thermal efficiency which contributes to improved indoor comfort in all temperatures and lower energy costs throughout the life of a building,” van Heerden said. “This translates into the lowest lifecycle costs for buildings and ensures that the first cost is essentially the last cost.”


“Student architects over the decades have discovered that clay brick is a quality building product with a natural propensity to express the craft of architecture in beautiful and memorable ways as they begin a career that will enable them to enhance the built environment of South Africa into the future.”