The awards evening for the annual PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative was held earlier this month at the stylish new venue, The Birdhouse, on the 18th floor of the iconic skyscraper at 25 Owl Street in Milpark, with spectacular views of Joburg’s city lights.
Guests included industry leaders, member of the judging panel, members of the PG Bison team, colleagues and friends, and of course, the top 10 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative finalists and their supporters.
The student design competition, now in its 26th year, has established itself as an integral part of the syllabus at the majority of design and architecture institutions across the country. Entries take the form of a design response to a semi-fictional brief devised by an architecture or design industry leader. This year, the brief involved the transformation of the old ‘Coke House’ at the now defunct Johannesburg Gas Works into a modern multipurpose exhibition space, focused on human interaction and showcasing a changing seasonal display of art and design. The brief instructed students to blend the historic landmark with new, modern and sustainable awareness of its environment while representing an ever changing and forward-thinking Johannesburg.
The winning students for the 2018 PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative were:
1st Place: Navan Padayachee from the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal.
Navan won a trip of a lifetime for himself and his lecturer, Lawrence Ogunsanya, to attend the 2019 Furniture Fair in Milan, Italy.
2nd Place: Kayla Vieira, from Vega Johannesburg.
Kayla won an all-expenses paid trip to the 2019 Design Indaba in Cape Town plus R3 000 in cash.
Although the standard of entries was high, a third prize was not awarded this year. The judges did, however, make three honourable mentions. They were Fathima Bibi Mula from the University of KwaZulu Natal, Juan de Villiers from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University School of Architecture and Luzuko Funda, also of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University School of Architecture.
All eight remaining top 10 finalists will each receive a R2 000 cash prize.
This year’s judging panel included Phill Mashabane of Mashabane Rose Associates, Livia Coetzee-Stein of DHQ Interior Brand Architects, Andrea Kleinloog and Megan Hesse of HK Studio and Dale Friedman of Paragon Interface.
The winning entry by Navan Padayachee sought to connect the ‘Coke House’ to its surroundings drawing on the concept of metamorphic sentience, which he explains as “the ability to experience a site through its transformation”. Navan’s entry was both culturally and historically sensitive, rooted in local context. By adding universal access to the building via a ramp and adding the subtle intervention of a transitional space at the entrance to the building’s the main volume, his design dramatizes the entrance before revealing the volume, in which the existing gas rig is displayed in reference to the building’s history. “I didn’t want to go the route of globalisation, because I feel that is killing culture,” he adds.
Navan says that he thoroughly enjoyed participating in the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative. “It was nerve-wracking at times,” he laughs, but points out that the competition was an incredible opportunity to benchmark his progress as a student, which he found hugely affirming. On winning the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative, he says “I kept in mind that this is just one project. I can always work and improve.” He plans to pursue an internship and following that, to complete his studies with a master’s degree in architecture.
Runner-up Kayla Vieira’s entry deftly tied together the building’s historical past and they city’s future as a vibrant cultural centre with an intervention based on the concept of a “modern mineshaft”. Kayla introduced an abstracted interpretation of a mineshaft, in reference to the building’s original function of supplying gas to the mining industry, to form a vortex-shaped sculptural form in the centre of the main volume of the “Coke House”. “I wanted to create a space that spoke to the historic essence of the building,” says Kayla. “But I also wanted to create a space that spoke to the new Johannesburg, which is vibrant and cultural.”
“I really enjoyed participating,” she says. “I had no expectations, so coming second was more that I could have imagined. I really enjoyed working on the brief. It allowed for a lot of creativity, which was a lot of fun.”
The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative seeks to recognise and nurture the talents of future interior and industrial designers, architects and key decision makers in the South African design industry. PG Bison marketing manager Jason Wells says, “The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is a way for us to explore one of the central aims of our brand, which is to function as a design enabler, the means through which designers can realise their dream designs. PG Bison believes that by nurturing and helping to develop new design talent, we can contribute to the fields of design and architecture, and ultimately, to better built environment for all.”
The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is well known for creating opportunities for design and architecture students, and providing a platform for them to explore and express their design talents. Time and time again, this award has proved to be a valuable launching pad for the careers of student designers, many of whom have gone on to have successful careers and make a meaningful contribution in the fields of design and architecture.