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University of the Witwatersrand graduates create a legacy through the 33rd annual Corobrik Regional Architecture Award

It is enlightening to see a whole generation of new architects showcasing world-class design talent. The winners of this year’s 33rd annual Corobrik Regional Architecture Award are an example of just how up and coming young professionals can create the legacy-enduring structures that will completely transform the built environment for future generations of South Africans.

This year it was announced that Ian McBride from the University of the Witwatersrand was the regional winner of this sought-after award. Commenting on the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award, Musa Shangase, Corobrik Commercial Director said: “As an organisation, we believe that ‘better starts here’, and this is particularly true for this award. These up-and-coming young architects are already designing iconic structures that would imprint their legacy on the country’s built environment. It is truly an honour to witness history being made.”

For the Corobrik Regional Architecture Award, Ian McBride received R10 000, with Nonhlanhla Mashego and Philippe de Laroche being awarded second runner up place and receiving R7 000 each.  A further R6 000 was awarded to Nicole Ramos for the innovative use of clay masonry in the building design.

Ian McBride is one of eight young architects from top South African universities receiving a Corobrik Regional Architecture Award in recognition of their design talent and innovation throughout 2019. In addition to the cash prize, the regional competition winners are through to the finals of the National Architectural Student of the year Award – set to be announced in Johannesburg on 6 May 2020  – which comes with R70 000 in prize money.

Ian McBride’s dissertation is entitled, ‘The Queer Commons: Interweaving Queer Space into Hillbrow as an Urban Resource for Johannesburg’s LGBTIQ Community.’

‘The Queer Commons’ is a speculative architectural intervention which proposes a site of civic engagement to offer assistance  to the growing social and psychological needs of Johannesburg’s LGBTIQ community. The building programme is configured to reconcile the fact that there is little infrastructure to compensate for the vastly different lived experience of people who are discriminated against and live in social isolation. Lack of state endorsement has inhibited the ability to create a meaningful public interface for the queer community in Johannesburg; therefore this speculative development is conceived as an opportunity to engage with the city’s impetus to define a new sites of civic engagement.

The proposed structure is placed in the multicultural inner city suburb of Hillbrow part of the Windybrow Centre. Transformation of the inner city over the decades has had a profound effect on the social context of its queer community which has in turn also exposed its internal divisions. This  proposal interweaves existing aspirations for the activation of the Windybrow site in Hillbrow with a new ‘Queer Commons’ which negotiates between much needed structures of civic engagement in the area as well as an urban resource for Johannesburg’s LGBTIQ community.

In joint  second place Nonhlanhla Mashego has proposed ‘Influx’: Finding a taxi architecture in between Tembisa and the Inner city of Johannesburg
This project is a taxi rank design project centred on Nonhlanhla’s commute between home and the city and tackles spatial inequality as well improving transport infrastructure. The objective of the project, located in the Johannesburg CBD,  is to use the socio-economic networks that occur on this journey as design parameters for a different typology of taxi ranks that transforms/enhances taxi ranks into/as social and sustainable spaces.
Philippe de Laroche’s thesis is entitled ‘ Vertical Migration: Re-imagining a Sense of Place Within Johannesburg’s High-density Fashion District’.  In the thesis de Laroche investigates the textile industry and proposes the design of a Community Textile and Recreation Hub. The bold and transparent public building provides support and skills development to new and existing micro-enterprise tailors, public space for surrounding inner-city residents to relax, study, and escape from the city.  In addition, a fabric sampling and innovation centre for an established textile company aims to bring larger formal business back into the Fashion District. The building links into the existing built fabric via an abandoned light-industrial building, providing workshop space to micro-enterprise tailors.
The best use of clay award was presented to Nicole Ramos for her thesis entitled ‘Building a Xubi Nation’ which is based  on the concept of social connection. It looks at the social interconnectedness and strong sense of community in Phumula, a township situated in the south of Germiston.  
Ramos says “I designed  a ‘self-build’ building that seeks to empower residents and encourage the existing ‘self-build architecture’ found in the area. Clay masonry was incorporated because it is a material that is readily available in Phumula and people are familiar with bricks. The design allows people to use their own imagination and their own hands to create architecture unique to Phumula, giving the community a unique sense of identity.”

Musa Shangase noted that these dissertations illustrated how architecture had the profound ability to capture a moment in history, reflecting the various interests, beliefs and unique character of a place in time through form and material.

Shangase noted that in the design of such legacy-defining structures, it was best to rely on honest, simple materials that inform the architectural language without overpowering the finished product.

A bonus is that clay brick not only transforms structures looking to the future but are also one of the most environmentally friendly building materials. Because of this, clay brick is integral to leaving a healthy legacy for the future. 

“Corobrik’s clay brick range is a really impactful example of these key issues, linking our past to our present and inspiring our future. Better starts here - with Corobrik,” he said.

Ian McBride pictured at the award ceremony with (left) Prof. Ariane Jansen van Rensburg, Architectural Programme Director Wits. and (right) Shauneez Naidoo  National Business Development at Corobrik.