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A superb line up of finalists for Corobrik ’s thirty-first year of sponsorship of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award

Dirk Meyer, Corobrik’s Managing Director commented on the excellent standard of entries for this year’s awards.  “Finalists have incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries for this year’s event to be held on the 18th April in Johannesburg.”

Each of the regional winners has been judged top of their tertiary institution and will compete against each other at the Hilton Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.   The winner to be announced on the evening of the 18th April 2018 will receive a prize of R50 000.

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University -  Matthew Morris
Title of thesis:  The design of a decentralised sewage treatment facility for a settlement within Bethelsdorp, Port Elizabeth.

BIO:  Prior to my architectural studies in Port Elizabeth, I attended school and grew up in Durban where my interests in making and producing began; through my studies at Nelson Mandela University these understandings have grown and been refined.

The project concerns itself with a heavily polluted river valley system of Swartkops, Port Elizabeth, where the edges are settled by people and lack of adequate service infrastructure has led to high levels of pollution. This unbalanced relationship between the urban and natural environments has resulted in the severe destruction of critical biodiversity zones and endangered keystone species, and subsequently impacting the quality of life for the residents of the area.

The urban settlements of northern Port Elizabeth lack an inherent identity or sense of community “centeredness” from poor urban structure and settlement making. The absence of formal public buildings and spaces within the community are a result of a structure supporting a minimum standard of living. With this, the potential to address both the ecological problem as well as the making of better living environments was seen through designing infrastructure with an explicit architectural intent.

The design works towards addressing settlement edge and its connection to the natural valley system, whilst building on the under-utilized congregational points within the community. In so doing, providing infrastructure for processing the pollution while concentrating and providing an appropriate place for community activities, making good people places and healthier happier environments. This allows service infrastructure to begin to clearly shape and structure the public infrastructure promoting a productive category of space, evolving past its utilitarian function.

Tshwane University of Technology -  Reply Mahlangu
Thesis title: The design of an automotive assembly facility in Pretoria
 “an auto¬mobile assembly plant that is suitable for the South African context”

The South African automotive industry generates over R100 billion annually and contributes to 6% of the country’s GDP. However, the industry does not consist of any locally owned car maker due to the financial burden of entering the sector. All of the assembly plants in South Africa are designed according to an international standard in order to fulfil an international demand. Each of these typical mechanized facilities costs billions to estab¬lish and they are specifically designed for manufacturing. Investors stand to lose billions if the company fails to sell the cars.

The aim of this thesis is to lower the stakes by designing a smaller assembly plant that can later be retrofitted to perform other functions (office building, retail outlet or even student accommodation) beyond manufacturing cars. This urban located multi-storey assembly plant will encourage rental opportunities while responding to the unemployment challenges of the country by using labour to offset the massive capital required for a complete mechanization.

University of Cape Town - Warren van Niekerk  
Thesis title: U R B A N    C A M P U S
Building the local craft tradition in Delft and consolidating the urban potentials of and emerging site of production along Delft Main Road.

Delft is currently under construction. Evidence reveals that most residents have engaged in some form of building activity, be it small scale or large scale, self-initiated or by hired means. This labour-intensive condition gives rise to the notion of Delft as a site of production, resulting in an emerging local industry, which in return possess a number of opportunities both locally within Delft and outside of Delft.

In this regard, the dissertation explores how these building-related craft traditions can be supported, through the design of a vocational training urban campus in Delft.  Thus far, building work has been executed within Delft in an ad hoc manner, and good building work remains unappreciated. The dissertation attempts to construct an institutional campus informed by the local vernacular that aids in the creation of a positive public realm and contributes to the civic. The components of constructing the campus are explored through three (building types) typologies that make up the various conditions as a whole; building as an edge of exchange, building as a thoroughfare and building as a yard. The building system adopted is deliberately clear and didactic in its making, revealing materials, joints, details and structure. The process of material selection and assembly is intended to echo the existing vernacular of Delft. The use of material such as clay brick work, concrete blocks, timber and steel are utilised, introducing new techniques and technologies of making, serving both a pedagogic and a development purpose.

University of the Free State – Su-Elna Bester 
Thesis title: THE M.CAC / Multi-Cultural Assimilation Centre OF DUBAI

The Multicultural Centre is situated next to the famous Dubai Creek. Forming part of the Traditional desert like vernacular architecture creating a special vibrant pedestrian waterfront & cultural hub. The Centre is home to all different cultures & communities. The MCAC waterfront forms a setting for self-expressions alongside others to affectively build a sense of cultural diversity.

The MCAC & park flowing into the existing city fabric, becomes a place for celebration and transforms according to its needs. Personal interaction is celebrated with its vibrant, fluid walkways, desert plants, water and trees, merging open Gallery & exhibition spaces. The building is sunken into the ground with planted roofs allowing for panoramic views. The restaurant creates an urban environment featuring multiple uses, forming cohesive public spaces. The theatre forms part of the heart of the creek. This encourage visitors to sit alongside the pedestrian designed park to eat together, socialize & explore the middle eastern culture & diverse ex patriate community.

Space belongs to those who are able to make place of dwelling for themselves within their context. Architecture can act as a tool to form a platform for dialogue between different groups; to create one supportive community that functions culturally alongside each other. This establish a sense of community and place in which both can exist to create a shared cultural experience.

University of Johannesburg - Sarah Treherne
Thesis Title:  The Subverse: Monuments to Hypertextuality
“Truth is so hard to tell, it sometimes needs fiction to make it plausible.” – Francis Bacon

At first reading, parables and fairy-tales may appear to have little do with architecture, but architecture is as much concerned with communication and storytelling as it is with shelter. The Subverse: Monuments to Hypertextuality is a series of six stage sets that harness the dual nature of fiction and theatre to confront the sensitive themes of privilege, patrimony, corruption, and collusion in post-apartheid South Africa. Set in the hyper-politicised suburb of Saxonwold, The Subverse generates a surreal landscape of socio-political enquiry.

Theatrical tactics - such as metaphor, diversion, juxtaposition, absurdity, and fairy-tale - are used to deliberately reconfigure the known narratives of historical events, landmarks, monuments, and accounts to reveal an alternative narrative, the sub - verse, of past and present South African politics.

“Hypertext” describes embedded links and the endless layers of information that form a vast web of cross-referencing between sites – in this case, between the six stage sets. Each layer of meaning conceals another, and with each tactical transformation, the resultant architecture becomes the stage on which a new story is enacted.

University of KwaZulu-Natal – Yousuf Vawda
Thesis title:  Memento Mori- Remember Your Death

Places of the dead throughout history have played a significant role in shaping the urban fabric and portraying a society’s attitude towards their dead. These sacred spaces would be important elements in the landscape for the living to pay respect and remember those that have passed.

The Christian faith has a unique history with regard to their interment (burial) spaces, utilising a variety of methods throughout its two thousand-year history.

The purpose of this project is to explore the relationship between sacred space and the memory of the dead, in Christianity, through mnemonics. The study investigates the relationship between life and death via sacred and memory evoking architecture through the design of a cemetery complex for Durban.

Situated in the otherwise underutilised Stellawood Cemetery, the project attempts to engage the public through retail, community and leisure spaces. Thereafter the user is lead along a ‘journey’, acting as a metaphor of life, death and the Resurrection, where the spaces are meant to evoke memories of the dead, as well as act as a reminder to the living that there is more to life than the mundane and profane.

In addition, Bio-Cremation or Resomation is incorporated as a sustainable body disposal method.

Yousuf incorporated the use of clay brick into his thesis and commented on the use as follows:
The materials incorporated also reference the passage of time and the effect of deterioration through time on the materials. The temporality of the materials, as well as its deterioration reminds the user of the temporality of human life. Materials are chosen to emphasise weathering, allowing the structure to age, without the need for continual maintenance. The use of clay brick throughout the scheme perfectly encapsulated this idea

University of Pretoria - Renée Amelia Minnaar
Thesis title: Remediator - Restoring the dichotomous relationship between industry and nature through an urban eco-textile mill and dye house.
Project Synopsis:
Industrialization brought about dramatic changes in many major cities around the world, including Johannesburg. However, rapid technological advancements have resulted in the abandonment of many industrial sites often within the confines of expanding cities as is the case with the old Johannesburg Gasworks.
The repercussions of the hazardous industrial processes of the past are still present on the site in the form of pollution. This, together with South Africa’s lack of protection of our industrial heritage, has awoken the fear that these post-industrial artefacts might be in danger of becoming extinct if their value is not recognised.
This dissertation aims to investigate the potential of redundant industrial sites like the old Johannesburg Gasworks to mitigate the environmental and social issues resulting from the past in an attempt to reintegrate the site back into the surrounding urban fabric. Through the understanding and application of environmental and heritage theories, this dissertation hopes to find a means of using architecture as a tool to mediate the dichotomous relationship between industry and nature, resulting from an exploitative world view, and inspire a new archetype for industrial architecture, that is able to inspire mutually beneficial relationships between industry and nature, whilst creating a didactic and dialectical relationship between the existing industrial heritage of the past and the envisioned contemporary architecture of the future.

University of the Witwatersrand – Margeaux Adams
Thesis title: Onder Hemel Bo Aarde
The research interrogates dominant western pedagogy and concepts of cultural superiority including the idea of architecture as a product of culture.
It looks at colonial discourse with a specific interest in language and its use in constructing systems of knowledge and power and assesses architecture as an extension of this colonial language.
Using post-colonial theory the research intends to deconstruct harmful and inaccurate ideas of cultural superiority and its embodiment in our spatial landscapes. Noting that during colonialism and its succeeding ideology apartheid; erasure of people of colour occurred in various forms. Erasure of their identities under racial classification systems and the accompanying spatial erasure through spatial displacement and relocation.

Within the spatial case study of the small Anglican mission settlement of Abbotsdale (a community of former slaves) the research addresses three central ideas from an architectural standpoint, identity, power, and ritual. This community has experienced multiple forms of erasure within its physical and psychological landscape.

The Architectural proposal programmatically attempts to accommodate the remaining remnants of the rituals of the town and community. Therein acknowledging and giving value to the community's heritage and history. This takes physical form in the reinterpretation of the spatial role once played by the church in a mission settlement. The program is a complex which includes an archive, an agricultural school, an event space, a community-based market and a bakery. 

This annual competition enables Corobrik, the country’s leading producer of clay brick, to recognise the shining lights on the architectural map of the future. The top students from eight major universities are identified based on their final theses and presented with awards throughout the year.

This event allows students of today to chart the way forward during challenging times for developing countries such as South Africa which not only had to embrace the advances of the day but use these to address things that were unique to Africa whilst also embracing its cultural heritage.

Dirk Meyer said, “no matter how pressing the needs and challenges of our immediate built environment, we cannot forget that we exist in a global context. The world has embarked on a fourth revolution that has already ushered in unprecedented change and disruption and will continue to do so. We have seen the demise of the vinyl record and the analogue camera and the birth of new brands such as Uber, AirBNB and Google. Newspapers and magazines, book publishers and even the postal service are struggling to move with the times and stay relevant.”