Great architectural design is sustainable design. It is design which ensures that the built environment complies with the principles of social, economic and ecological sustainability. It requires skill and sensitivity on the part of the architect. This was evident in full measure during the regional rounds of the 31st Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, according to Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik.
The competition has been held annually for the past 30 years to reward and advance excellence in the architectural profession countrywide. It involves regional competitions at eight major South African universities in the build-up to a national award ceremony in Johannesburg in April 2018 at which the overall winner is named and presented with a prize of R50 000.
Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales Coastal, presented prizes to architectural students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal University in Durban on 18 January 2018. The regional winner of R8 500 was Yousuf Vawda, with Joshua Montile receiving the R6 500 second prize and Thabo Cele taking home the third prize of R4 500. The prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay was also won by Yousuf Vawda
Yousuf Vawda’s thesis is entitled ‘Memento Mori – Remember Your Death’
He says, 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 regarding their interment 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.
Discussing the reason to incorporate clay brick into his thesis, Vawda says, ‘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.
In second place Joshua Montile’s thesis is entitled ‘Power and Symbolism through Civic Architecture: Re-imagining the Durban City Hall.’
The aim of this study was to explore the appropriateness of Colonial civic buildings as an inherited architectural legacy in the context of democratic governance in South Africa today. This research led to the proposal of a new Council Chamber for the eThekwini Municipality underneath Francis Farewell Square in front of the Durban City Hall, bringing processes of democratic governance into the public realm and facilitating engagement between local government and the public through the democratic traits of transparency, engagement and openness enshrined in the South African Constitution.
In third place, Thabo Cele’s thesis is a Nguni Traditional Healing Centre in Durban. Cele believes it will generate income for Durban.
He says, “Traditional healing has existed for many centuries and continuous to exist till this day. However, the lack of fundamentally appropriate architecture for practicing traditional healing in the -continuously growing- urban built environment has contributed immensely to the neglect of the practice. It is therefore apparent that there is a need for a place that will facilitate healing traditionalists and their practices that exist in Durban, ensuring inclusion through acknowledgement.”
“We expect the architectural students to be conscious of the big picture and the global environment in which they operate,” said Dangers “This includes the concept of sustainable building and an awareness that life cycle impacts are critical to the design of environmentally responsible buildings. It was clear that this was the case with the winning students this year.”
The correct choice of building materials was a factor in ensuring environmentally friendly construction practices, Dangers said, and it was hard to ignore the sustainable properties of clay masonry in this regard.
“Energy efficiency is an increasingly important consideration in reducing environmental impact and it here that face brick comes into its own because of its thermal efficiency, helping to keep the interior of buildings cool in the hotter months and warm in winter, a benefit which is of particular importance in South Africa with its extremes in temperature. Superior thermal efficiency also means lower energy costs throughout the life cycle of a building and peace of mind knowing that the first cost is essentially the last cost.”
Elaborating on the sustainable building properties of clay brick, Dangers said that it contributed many other benefits to a building project such as durability, low maintenance and long-term life performance whilst ensuring a healthy indoor environment.
“The architectural and building sector are increasingly receptive to the idea that, when considering the life cycle costs of a project, eco-friendly buildings cost less to operate and have excellent energy performance. As a result, we are seeing architects creating designs for environmentally sound buildings, a trend that was manifested in the projects submitted by this year’s students and one which bodes well for the furtherance of world class architectural design in this country.”