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Innovation and an appreciation of South Africa’s cultural diversity stand out in The University of the Free State, 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 31st 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 31st Corobrik Student Architect of the Year Awards in Johannesburg in April 2018

Ockert Van Heerden Corobrik Sales Director presented prizes to the winners from University of the Free State.

Su-Elna Bester won first prize of R8 000, second prize of R6 500 went to Wim Boshoff and third prize of R4 500 was presented to Jani Schreuder.   An additional prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Jacques Steyn.

Su-Elna Bester’s thesis is entitled, ‘The M.CAC / Multi-Cultural Centre of Dubai.’  She says, “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 can 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.

Wim Boshoff’s thesis is a Cinematic Arts Centre, an urban activation through breaking the wall.  He says. “This dissertation is designed around the exploration of breaking ‘walls’ or boundaries in a dormant place to reveal transformation and connectivity within a CBD urban level and how it can contribute towards a design synthesis. It proposes a film Centre in Bloemfontein’s extensive network of educational institutes. The aim is to design a meaningful place of learning, by achieving connectivity through the investigation of movement and the breaking of boundaries.

Jani Schreuder’s thesis is entitled “A Dual Education Centre for Woman and Infants.”   She proposes an education centre for single mothers and an early development centre for their children.  This is aimed at addressing the topical issue of education shortage within our society. It includes a housing scheme to facilitate the re-appropriation of city space into a livable community. The proposal is located within the CBD of Pretoria and was chosen as the dissertation topic because of its social relevance and possible reach.

Jacques Steyn’s Urban Recycling Centre in Bloemfontein won the award for best use of clay brick.  His thesis proposed a new age of recycling process within the 21st century city.   Steyn says in Bloemfontein, like in most modern South African cities, waste can become a big problem with many pedestrians that occupy the CBD. The choice in design was to create a space within the city (Hoffman Square), where people can drop of their waste but also become part of the process of recycling. He incorporated clay brick into the design to become part of the surrounding buildings, but also allowing a design that would be durable.

Van Heerden said that all 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 Van Heerden 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,” Van Heerden said.

“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.”

Van Heerden 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.

Su-Elna Bester is this year’s regional winner from the University of the Free State for the regional Corobrik Architectural Student Awards.  She is pictures with her thesis model