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Kenyan heritage inspired University of Witwatersrand regional winner at the annual Corobrik Architecture of the Year awards.

“As a leading manufacturer of clay brick and related products, Corobrik is firmly committed to innovation and excited about being at the forefront of change. Through supporting our tertiary institutions as they develop and realise new talent in the architectural space, we are essentially investing in the future of the built environment. At the same time, we have introduced new technology into this space and are committed to developing new products that will become the tools through which the architects of the future will craft their legacies,” said Musa Shangase, Corobrik Commercial Director at a gathering at the Witwatersrand University to announce the regional winner of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award.
Jason Ngibuini received an award of R10 000. Second place and a prize of R8 000 went to Benjamin Kollenberg. The winner of the third prize and R 6 000 was Suzanne Pasch with Genna Price receiving R6 000 for the best use of clay masonry in her project.
Jason Ngibuini will be one of eight young architects from major universities around the country who will compete for the 32nd Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award which will be announced in Johannesburg on the 8th May 2019.
Jason Ngibuini’s thesis is entitled ‘Sherehe ya chai’: Transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular as an immersive tea tasting retreat.   He says, “in Kenya, tea plays a crucial role in country’s economy, accounting for 22% of its total exports. Being the third largest producer of black tea in the world, Kenya’s tea industry is struggling due to the shortfall of exports lagging high levels of production. This thesis aims to expand on Kenya’s tea directorate’s plans to increase local consumption from 6.6% to 15% within the next five years by proposing a tea tasting retreat in Limuru, Kenya. The tea tasting retreat would allow visitors to gain an understanding of tea cultivation, tea production as well as the health benefits.”
This thesis has helped me rediscover my cultural roots in Kenya and expand on my mother’s childhood stories around Kikuyu traditions, customs and way of life. Having been brought up in South Africa, research into Kikuyu traditional architecture was completely new.  With discussions around post-colonial architecture in Kenya, a focus is put on the transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular architecture to ensure the cultural continuity of skills and expertise that are bound within traditional knowledge. The reinterpretation of these skills or expertise will enhance the visitor’s experience and challenge the role of post-colonial theory in the search for Kenyan identity in contemporary architecture.
Benjamin Kollenberg’ thesis is entitled Capital Capitol.  It is the reconceptualisation of state infrastructure to maintain a productive and progressive equilibrium in the Sandton business district.  The Capital Capitol is an insertion of a reimagined civic centre into an existing speculative development above the Sandton Gautrain station. It is proposed to challenge the contemporary architectural trend of Form Follows Finance but should also continue to increase productivity through a capitalist investment in individual.
‘Die Sprokie Skrywer’ a layered narrative in a Karoo art town is Suzanne Pasch’s thesis.   Located in the small town of Nieu-Bethesda, the proposed intervention becomes the front door to the town as museum. It gives the town’s characters a platform to share their stories and it unravels the town’s deep-rooted history. A concrete and stained-glass studio in the spirit of Helen Martins serves the local community and draws more tourists in while functioning as a sensory introduction to the Owl House and camel yard.
For her award for the best use of clay brick Genna Price’s thesis is entitled ‘The Waterhole, the Campfire and the Cave’ She has rethought educational architecture as a contribution to the upliftment of the Kwa Themba community.
She says, “This project is a learning environment for young adults from the township of KwaThema, who have dropped out of the conventional educational framework. It challenges traditional school spatial arrangements.  One of the first schools, a primary school was built from brick, on this site. The school was demolished however, the ground floor slabs remain and serve as a memory. The relics root the new educational institution to the site and motivated the use for clay brick in this scheme.”
Musa Shangase said that, as clay brick dated back as far as 7 500 BC and even to the days of the Egyptians and the Roman Empire, it would be tempting to believe that it was a product that did not need to move with the times and adapt to new challenges within the built environment.
“But nothing could be further from the truth. Even though the intrinsic qualities of clay brick (it’s thermal properties help regulate heat and cold and conserve energy, it is durable, non-toxic, reusable, helps minimise noise in the built environment and more) haven’t changed through the centuries and continue to address some of the biggest challenges of our times, it is how we embrace these properties going into the future that matters more than ever,” he said.
Technology is crucial here and Corobrik recently commissioned the latest (Building Information Modelling) BIM files which can now be downloaded from its website by architects and other property development professionals.
“Today’s young professionals are looking to rapid and meaningful solutions backed by superior technology and connectivity.   BIM represents a new way of working based on a far broader and shared intelligent technological platform that is compatible with all architectural software,” Shangase said.
Another means of remaining relevant has been through research and development and investment in new machinery at its Midrand facility to produce innovative new products, including Corobrik’s new Black Brick and a white facebrick. 
“This takes facebrick into the new age of modern, dramatic architecture. When combined with other textures and colours or even used alone, these exciting new products help create a powerful contemporary signature. The use of new mortars, different bonds and contrasting patterns has opened up a whole world of new possibilities in brick architecture,” he added.
Caption:   Jason Ngibuini’s winning entry is  entitled   ‘Sherehe ya chai’: Transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular as an immersive tea tasting retreat.