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Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University’s top student’s thesis offers a solution to revitalise the decaying Boet Erasmus Stadium in Port Elizabeth.

‘‘One key issue is the need to incorporate the demands of sustainable development into architectural designs, keeping the lifetime carbon footprint of projects to a minimum.  This is becoming increasingly important in the design of public sector buildings such as schools, hospitals and community centres where government has a long appreciation for the specification of sustainable or “green” building materials such as clay bricks,” said Allin Dangers Corobrik Director of Sales – Coastal.

Presenting the awards at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) he continued saying, “we expect the students to bring a fresh perspective to the architectural scene coupled with outstanding design and a thorough understanding of the complex issues impacting on the profession.”

The competition begins with regional competitions at eight major universities throughout South Africa and culminates in a national award ceremony for the overall winner in Johannesburg in May 2016.

At the award ceremony, Leon van der Westhuizen was the regional winner of R8 000, Phillip Skein was awarded second prize of R6 500, while Richard Holgate won third prize of R4 500. A R4500 prize for the best use of clay masonry was also presented to Peta Almon

The eight regional winners automatically qualify to compete for the R50 000 national prize which will be presented at the 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards in Johannesburg in May 2016 and Leon van der Westhuizen will represent NMMU.

Leon van der Westhuizen’s thesis is RE-generating the Boet Erasmus Stadium in Port Elizabeth through the design of a biological water treatment and research facility

Van der Westhuizen says, “The project is concerned with issues pertaining to the impact of derelict sites on ecological systems and the opportunities presented by these for the restoration and regeneration of damaged ecosystems – socio-economically, culturally and physically. 

The derelict Boet Erasmus Stadium in Shark River Valley is a hindrance to an important valley water system whilst providing a desolate termination to the upper end of a nature based leisure zone that connects to the beachfront through “Happy Valley”. 

By visualizing the site as a filter for ecology the project attempts to create an interlinked ecosystem between the neighbouring valley systems to allow citizens of Port Elizabeth to utilize unique ecosystem services.

The old stadium becomes a micro-catchment area where wetlands, algae ponds and water lily treatment zones filter polluted and contaminated water to remove heavy metals. The ecological status of the valley is monitored by the research component and provides laboratories to extract and recover the heavy metals from the water lilies. These metals are then crafted into saleable jewellery pieces. As the facility filters the water along the valley it supports the reconstituted “people place” of Happy Valley with natural swimming pools, walkways, cycling routes and picnic areas.

In second place Phillip Skein has designed an Aquaculture Plant in the lower Swartkops Valley in the Eastern Cape. 

The project originated out of a response to the current environmental crisis facing the Swartkops River.  Water pollution and degradation of eco-systems along the river has reached a new low and are threatening the health and integrity of fauna and flora species within the river. The project sets out to address these issues through various sets of integrated interventions that are applied across scales to restore the value of the Swartkops River.    

Richard Holgate is awarded third place for his thesis which is a Maritime Museum in the Durban harbour.  Durban, like many other coastal towns in South Africa, owes much of its existence to early voyages of sea explorers. Located in the Victoria Embankment harbour precinct, the project creates a unique opportunity to reinforce the rich culture of the city whilst connecting its historical core to the water’s edge on an urban scale.

Best use of clay winner is Peta Almon’s thesis ‘ Makana Monument.’

Makana Monument is sited on Makana’s Kop in Grahamstown, where it recognises the supressed histories of the site, as well as, facilitating specific community needs. This is expressed architecturally through a symbiotic relationship between landscape and architecture. The building is structured by extensive rammed earth walls supported by clay brick cavity walls. The use of clay is multitudinous; it is an abundant local material which has structural and thermal qualities as a cavity wall making it a sustainable option, and its symbolism arrives from its use in ceremonies and traditions of the local people.   

Dangers said that clay brick masonry brought a myriad of benefits to a building project including low maintenance, durability, long-term life performance and energy efficiency, reducing the heating and cooling costs of buildings, along with providing a healthy and comfortable living environment.

He said that another major advantage of clay brick was its capacity for both recycling and reuse which was the case during the rejuvenation of the 90-year-old Lion Match factory in Durban, an Amafa heritage site, where a combination of bricks from the demolished sections were used along with carefully selected new Corobrik bricks to blend the old and new buildings seamlessly. 

Replacement of old bricks which are no longer manufactured is also a specialised requirement which Corobrik is called upon to fulfil. In the refurbishment of the167-year-old Government House in Pietermaritzburg, a national monument, for use as UNISA’s regional campus, Corobrik created special dies to manufacture bricks to match the handmade salmon pink bricks typical of the 1900 period. 

“Clay brick’s versatility and aesthetic qualities make it ideal to enhance and harmonise with any environment for ultra-modern projects as well as the sensitive renovations of landmark period buildings,” he said.