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Najeeba Hassim of the University of KwaZulu-Natal is the regional finalist for 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year 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 theses 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.

Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales - Coastal presented prizes to the winners from University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Najeeba Hassim won first prize of R8 000, second prize of R6 500 went to Jean-Pierre Audibert and third prize of R4 500 was presented to Julie Eneman.   An additional prize of R5 000 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Jean-Pierre Audibert.

Najeeba Hassim’s winning thesis title is ‘Defining an architectural typology: Inner City Green Centres within South Africa.’

She proposes an environmental research facility in KwaZulu-Natal to address threatened natural resources.  She says this does not seem to be high in priority in most city projects within South Africa.  “As such, a refreshed mind-set towards the built form to restore, preserve and promote key green assets is necessary,” says Hassim.

The Green Centre is located within a dynamic context of light industrial, commercial and environmental nodes, sits along the edge of the Umgeni River, in Briardene. The design promotes ‘Green as an experience’, i.e. experiencing a journey that aims to educate and expose new attitudes towards key green assets such as the Umgeni River.  The design principles were inspired by the ecological theory and the cradle to cradle approach. This allows the Green Centre to enhance its local surroundings whilst promoting sustainable awareness. The environmental research facility aims to search for solutions to improve the river water quality, protect and enhance eco-systems and harness untapped potential for river currents.

This proposal acts as a catalyst by positively influencing the river eco-systems and water quality, future developments along the river and the general public.

 Jean Pierre Audibert’s thesis The 'Cemet' highlights an unrealized potential that exists for cemeteries. The intention is to project a new discussion about the future of these incredible cultural and historic landscapes, to explore deeper meanings and alternate uses. The dissertation was founded upon the presence and activities of the Stellawood Cemetery in Durban.  It is the understanding of Audibert’s dissertation that given the rights and opportunities the users, the youth can highlight untapped potentials and add new life to these sometimes 'lost' city spaces which are so intimately connected to the community around them. 

He incorporated clay masonry as a strong element of the design alongside other natural raw materials. The reasoning for this was to keep a subtle raw finish that blended with the natural setting of the cemetery. Two types of brick were used within the design, the first as a screen for the office spaces which were a range of breeze blocks, set in front of an opening glass façade. The second and major use of clay masonry was creatively used to offset the concrete adding dimension and emphasis for major entrances and facilities, this was a Red Satin clay face brick.  Major areas where this brick was used were the promession facilities, the funeral chapel, reflective niches, offices, circulation cores and the water gardens.

In third place, Julie Eneman thesis addressed the trauma of rape, sexual assault and abuse in an inner city support centre for Durban women.

Allin Dangers 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 Dangers 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,” said Dangers. 

“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.”

Dangers 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. 

Pictured at the University of KwaZulu-Natal regional awards of the Corobrik Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year regional finals are from left:  Ruben Reddy President of the KZN Institute for Architects, the winner Najeeba Hassim, Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales – Coastal and Mthembeni Mkhize, Head of the Dept. of Architecture at UKZN.