Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards

Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny is the winner of the 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards for his entry, entitled ‘Design for [bio] diversity’, which explored the potential of architecture for ecological conservation.

Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny is this year’s winner of Corobrik Architect Student of the Year. He is pictured with (left) Juan Solis of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Peter du Trevou of Corobrik, (right) Lawrence Ogunsanya of UKZN and Dirk Meyer of Corobrik.

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. We are delighted that aesthetics, cost-effectiveness, durability, function and comfort have been incorporated in the regional finalists’ entries. If one defines sustainability as meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the opportunities of future generations, then this means finding the balance between building homes and a sustainable environment.”

The competition involved 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 30th Corobrik Student Architect of the Year Awards.

The finalists were:

Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth: Mario van Wyk H3

Thesis title: ‘Horror in Architecture’, a romantic exploration of the exquisite corpse analogy.

As a by-product of previous modes of planning in today’s urban environment we are left with open undefined spaces between developed areas (known as SLOAP or “Space left over after Planning”). Here infrastructure such as storm water channels, railway lines, and ruins of old industrial buildings remain; overgrown with the incursion of wild nature. These kinds of spaces create urban barriers and breeding grounds for criminal activities.

In his treatise, van Wyk identifies a site of this nature in Uitenhage. He then uses the analogy of a corpse, which facilitates infestation, to develop this site over a period of several years. What emerges is a revitalised ecosystem where the relationship between humans and nature are harmoniously re-defined in what is conceptualised as an “exquisite corpse”.

In this process, the inherent functional and sensory qualities of the site are used as starting points for infestation/development. For example, storm-water channels (Traces of the existing water reticulation system of the site) are reconfigured to make pleasant waterways that feed agricultural lands which in turn activate “reef points”- or points which facilitate the emergence of a variety of human activities. These ultimately contribute to the development of a new way of inhabiting the new productive landscape with an innovative housing model; all a function of the emergence of the “Exquisite Corpse”

Tshwane University of Technology:  Kim Geldenhuys H3

Thesis Title:  A community food production facility in Alexandra, Gauteng.

The dissertation investigates the potential of architecture to be a device/instrument of knowledge and skills transfer. The user is placed at the centre of the design exploration and becomes the main design generator and informant of the architectural investigation.

With its vibrant street life, strong sense of community and complex informal urban fabric, the Alexandra Township in Johannesburg faces many socio-economic challenges and infrastructural shortcomings.

This design investigation addresses increased concerns of food security and lack of communal, open space in Alexandra due to high population densities and overcrowding.

The needs of the user inform the creation of a place for the farming, distribution and consumption of fruits and vegetables. Based on community involvement, the architectural response aims to encourage ownership, adaptability and mutual skills exchange.

The issues to be investigated include:

  •  addressing the separation between places of food production and cities
  • architecture as a means of knowledge transfer and education
  • principles of responding to the kinetic city
  • principles of materials, local skills and construction methods suited to adaptability

University of Cape Town: Kenneth Main. H3

Thesis title: Urban Acupuncture: Architecture as a catalyst for environmental and water conservation in the context of the Kilimanjaro Informal Settlement.

In his thesis, Kenneth Main attempts to establish an approach to dealing with the issue of waste contamination and water conservation in the natural and urban landscapes of the riverbed, its edges and man-made peripheries. The research locates itself at the northern boundary of the city of Windhoek along a stretch of polluted riverbed in the Kilimanjaro Informal Settlement (KIS).

In the creation of an architectural approach ‘urban acupuncture’ is explored to create architecture that has the potential to influence areas beyond its physical boundaries.  In addition, it can re-establish and re-imagine the value of the river for its unseen influence in shaping Windhoek as rapid urbanisation is taking place. Aspects of environmental degradation, water conservation and lack of basic infrastructure form a basis of inquiry to which an urban framework is proposed. Most simply, this framework acts to establish an alternative and more efficient system which collects, stores, filters and reuses wastewater for both drinking and irrigation purposes through a series of four contextually assigned architectural devices.

Utilising the ‘bi-products’ of this urban framework (Reedbed filtered water & potable/drinking water), the KIS Agricultural Learning Centre is proposed.  The Centre provides a point of exchange for both in-situ filtered drinking water and fresh produce that is grown at the centre establishing a link between this infrastructural insertion and its public and social constructs.

University of Johannesburg: Darren Sampson H3

Thesis title: ‘The Light House’.

The Light House is an architectural proposition that uses light and dark to produce what the Swiss architect Peter Zumthor calls an ‘experience’: an all-encompassing, sensory mood that relies on the sophisticated manipulation of light and dark to convey a number of ideas about site, presence, beauty, harmony and nature.

The project relies on the treatment of light and dark as form, material, substance, and mood. It investigates the relationship between performance and form and the relationship between architect and user which is taken from Jonathan Hill’s reading of the ‘two occupations of architecture: the activities of the architect and the actions of the user’ which is of importance in my project since everyone who visits it constructs it differently.

The project is situated along the edge of a light ‘territory’ that is created twice every six seconds by the light emitted from the Farol De Dona Maria Pia, an existing lighthouse on the edge of Praia. Two sites, Site # 1- Sea, Land, Light and Site # 2 – Ocean, Sky, Light have been articulated, but should be read as a single ‘site’ for the entire project.

University of KwaZulu-Natal: Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny H3

Thesis title:  Design for [bio] – Diversity.

Exploring the potential of architecture for ecological conservation.

Globally biodiversity plays an integral part of the human existence and our ability to survive, providing specific ecosystem services, which are essential to human life (Diaz et al 2006). As the human population increases, urbanisation, industrialisation and the development of cities occurs. This results in the exploitation and degradation of natural areas that are rich in biodiversity, which in addition to climate change and global warming, are imposing increasingly detrimental threats to the resources these areas provide.   A major concern in remains the world’s freshwater systems, which internationally have been mentioned to remain the most affected overall and therefore it is stated that, the ‘world now faces a biodiversity crisis’ (Wilson, 2002).

This continued degradation is unfortunately largely responsible for the design of the built environment, particularly that which is near waterbodies.

In response, the dissertation aimed to look into the built environment, to explore how architecture could minimise its impact on, as well as further actively conserve and restore natural areas and ecosystems. Specifically focusing on two key areas within the discourse of environmental design, both eco efficient applied (technological) systems and eco-effective integrated (ecological/ regenerative) systems were discussed and analysed.  This information was used to inform an appropriate architectural design to harness and utilise any potential methods, which could aid in the conservation and restoration of critically endangered biodiversity hotspots, in the context of the uMngeni River, Durban, South Africa.

University of Pretoria: Yvonne Bruinette H3

Thesis title: ‘The Heritage Portal: An Experiential Narrative’ based at Westfort in Pretoria.

Hidden in the western outskirts of Pretoria lies the remains of what used to be the protector of the West, known as ‘Westfort’. Just before the outbreak of World War II, the fort was dismantled, stripped down for its steel and left to fall into ruin (Van Vollenhoven 1998:25).

The dissertation addresses the ongoing process of ruination and isolation within highly contested continuums of change. By rehabilitating this forgotten ruin, Westfort might awaken mysteries of the past and simultaneously evoke a need to tell stories about it.

The site, Westfort is situated in the western outskirts of Pretoria and just before the outbreak of World War 2, the fort was dismantled, stripped for its steel and left to fall into ruin. The site also includes the former Westfort Leper Institution- which since its closure in 1997 has been illegally occupied by informal settlers. Today, it still functions as a segregated community and together with the Fort, illustrates the consequences of ruination and isolation over time.

Since its closure in 1997, informal settlers illegally occupied the buildings and adapted the site to accommodate their needs. It functions as a self-sustaining village and with the Fort, illustrates the consequences of ruination and isolation over time.

The Heritage Portal will act as the mediator in celebrating the continuity of our collective and continuous South African heritage through the experience of narration. The intention of the project is to protect the heritage significance of the Westfort precinct, secure its future value, and introduce continuity through experiential architecture.

University of the Free State: Lana Bramley H3

Thesis title:  Art Gallery   Questioning topographic and institutional edges by sculpting inhabitable thresholds.

Lana questioned topographic and institutional edges by sculpting inhabitable thresholds.  The gallery is placed on the periphery of campus to allow visitors from the university and access to the public. The building negotiates the edge of the campus by addressing the public realm and currently prohibited access

The form of the gallery was manipulated through the way natural light is allowed inside the building for art viewing. The gallery consists of several masses with breathing pockets in-between. These pause-moments allow the visitor a time of reflection.

The gallery captures a place that allows the art to breathe upon its enclosure.

University of Witwatersrand: Katherine Dewar H3

Thesis title: Hyper-embodiment, A jewellery creation hub + community for women.

Katherine Dewar’s thesis is entitled Hyper-embodiment and is an approach to discussing the interface between spaces for women [in Johannesburg’s inner-city] and jewellery as a connector of the body to place.  She proposes the jewellery hub be situated in New Doornfontein, a space that is male-dominated and where women are present but seem to be largely excluded, unsafe and vulnerable is also full of vibrancy and activity.  This area has the potential for a positive and radical cultural change, but currently remains disconnected and non-inclusive for all people.

By looking at spaces for women, as well as jewellery being a “location” between the body and architecture, I aim to take an architectural design approach that solves issues of making space for women, and for jewellery practices in Johannesburg,” says Dewar.

Three multi-storey connected buildings on the main pedestrian route on Albertina Sisulu road will be used for the hub and community centre.  The ground floor to offer community spaces and jewellery galleries, and floors above for classrooms and workshops, that embrace, and introduce a space for women to learn, create and engage with each other.

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