Energy efficient mechanisms and interventions to better sustain the environment are not just nice to haves – they are integral to a more sustainable future and building standards and regulations are likely to be revised and fine tuned going forward to support such an end. The architectural profession is central to the solution.
Speaking at the 2014 Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards at the University of Johannesburg, Musa Shangase Corobrik Commercial Director, said the regional finalists projects proved that sustainability in its broadest sense was on the students radar albeit the focus of the projects presented was more towards the creation and enhancement of sustainable urban environments.
This year’s winner is Harold Johnson, his entry is ‘The ‘Dark’ City: Critical Interventions in Urban Despair’.
Johnson said he began the project as a journey by observing and documenting violence, abandonment and exodus within the inner city. In his research Johnson tracked statistics and investigated the residents of Johannesburg inner city and the city’s responsibility as well as what happens when infrastructure falls away. To reach his audience Johnson engaged contributors in photography, film research and sociology to determine what architecture means to these people.
The result is a six phase design, each with various sub-phases that ranged from basic responses such as rain harvesting, a manual hoist, and windmills to upgrading a building.
Rachel Wilson received second prize for her thesis “Junkspace City,” The Institute of Political Ecology, a sensitive landscape project to rehabilitate scarred landscapes of Junkspace through ecological restoration.
Inspired by a wasteland in the ‘jungle’ of Alexandra on the banks of the Jukskei River, among an abandoned water treatment plant she discovered Sangomas, Inyangas and Rastafarian herbalists living on the site and were growing medicinal plants as a source of economic sustainability. Wilson found that the site unfolds as a hidden wasteland secretive and detached from society.
In third place is Zoe Goodbrand for her thesis entitled ‘The Connected City.’ Goodbrand proposes revitalising Johannesburg’s natural environment through the establishment of the Braamfontein Spruit as a Sub-urban Greenway.
The Braamfontein Spruit extends almost the full length of Johannesburg from suburb to inner-city and the project explores the possibility of reconnecting the city’s natural systems. She also investigated cycle transport as a necessary social and cultural connector through the city.
The project is a cycle network that spans the full length of Johannesburg: from suburb to inner city (22km in length) crossing through a number of activity zones positioned along the network. Two main types of thoroughfare were identified: the Boulevard as the primary access route through each zone; and the Promenades, as smaller meandering paths. The activity zones are each individually identifiable through numerous way-finding devices such as programme, materiality, signage and colour.
Tiffany Melless received the award for the best use of clay. Her thesis is ‘The Frontier City: Converging Rituals in Johannesburg’s Urban Fabric.
The project houses the ‘Association for the Cultivatio of Traditional Remedies’ [ACTR], which responds to, and aids in facilitating, the existing ritualistic and spiritual practices that exist. The ACTR attempts to integrate three categories of users: worshippers, visitors and researchers into the ecology of Highlands Ridge. She says, “the ACTR’s design has been influenced by my readings, research and, crucially, ways of drawing, mapping and analyzing the site which allowed me to ‘see’ it in different ways. It also allowed me to develop a design proposition that interacted with the site without negatively altering its genius loci.”
Melless chose to incorporate clay masonry into her project because of the inherent textural qualities and colour variations of the bricks. They bring warmth to the undulating walls throughout the project. These walls are of vital importance as they direct and funnel visitor’s movement along specific routes that run through and connect the various structures that form The Association for the Cultivation of Traditional Remedies.
Masonry’s durability and longevity ensure that the exposed walls will maintain their appearance and visual appeal while requiring minimal maintenance over time. The masonry work in the dissertation aims to work with the existing natural environment of the Highlands Ridge and not over power its inherent spiritual qualities.
This year marks the 28th anniversary of Corobrik’s sponsorship of this prestigious competition. Thesis students from Universities and qualifying Institutes of Technology throughout South Africa are invited to submit entries for one of seven regional competitions. Each regional winner receives a prize of R8 000 and is entered into the national finals, where they will compete for top honours and a prize of R50 000at The Maslow on the 22nd April 2015.
Students whose projects are placed second and third receive prizes of R6 000 and R4 000 respectively while the project that displays the best use of clay masonry is rewarded with R4 000.
“The Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards were created to promote quality design and to acknowledge talent among architectural students. Over the past quarter of a century, the profession itself has changed significantly. While creating sustainable architecture has always been a fundamental aspect of design, aesthetics, functionality and the environmental issues are now emerging as more equal partners at the design concept stage.” said Musa Shangase.
While the parameters might have shifted over the years, we have witnessed a consistently high standard of work from Architectural students. As in past years, the 2014 entries demonstrate an understanding of the architectural challenges unique to South Africa and showcase innovative thinking.”