In this annual competition, the country’s best architectural students from eight major universities are identified based on their final theses and presented with awards throughout the year. The winners of each of the regional competitions then go on to compete for the national title and a prize of R50 000 at the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards.
“The students of today are the creators of the built environment of the future. We find ourselves in a challenging time where our finest young minds will have to adapt to unprecedented changes. We are on the brink of a fourth industrial revolution. Whereas, the first industrial revolution was centred on engineering, the second driven by electricity and mass production and the third by information technology, the fourth will hinge on human creativity. Already we are seeing massive levels of disruption as people completely recreate processes that we have taken for granted for decades,” said Musa Shangase, Corobrik Commercial Director told students and academics at the award ceremony.
“While it is true that this sort of disruption has been the death knell for some of the world’s largest brands – think Kodak and analogue camera, major record labels and the vinyl record and even some of our major newspapers. “
“However, many have been able to change with the times – and Corobrik which has been around for over 115 years and the clay brick which ash survived for thousands of years are two of them.”
Entrants for the Wits leg of the 31st National Corobrik Architectural Student Awards fully grasped the challenges of the fourth revolution whilst, at the same time, realising that South Africa also needed to grapple with the demands of an emerging economy and the overhang from a political, economic and social system that did not serve the needs of its people.
In first place is Margeaux Adams and her thesis is entitled Onder Hemel Bo Aarde.
She says, “The research interrogates dominant western pedagogy and concepts of cultural superiority including the idea of architecture as a product of culture.”
It looks at colonial discourse with a specific interest in language and its use in constructing systems of knowledge and power and assesses architecture as an extension of this colonial language.
Using post-colonial theory, the research intends to deconstruct harmful and inaccurate ideas of cultural superiority and its embodiment in our spatial landscapes. Noting that during colonialism and its succeeding ideology apartheid; erasure of people of colour occurred in various forms. Erasure of their identities under racial classification systems and the accompanying spatial erasure through spatial displacement and relocation.
Within the spatial case study of the small Anglican mission settlement of Abbotsdale (a community of former slaves) the research addresses three central ideas from an architectural standpoint, identity, power, and ritual. This community has experienced multiple forms of erasure within its physical and psychological landscape.
The Architectural proposal programmatically attempts to accommodate the remaining remnants of the rituals of the town and community. Therein acknowledging and giving value to the community's heritage and history. This takes physical form in the reinterpretation of the spatial role once played by the church in a mission settlement. The program is a complex which includes an archive, an agricultural school, an event space, a community-based market and a bakery.”
Margeaux Adams received 1st prize of R8 500 while Rene Vidjak won second prize of R6 500 and Aeron Stipanov received the third prize of R4 500. A R4 500 prize for the best use of clay masonry was also presented to Gabrielle Cutler.
Rene Vidjak’s thesis is “Home Affairs” and it is the rebirth of the Department of Home Affairs in Randburg, Johannesburg.
This research report tells a story of how architecture and space perpetuate the power struggles between people, government public services, and democracy. These interwoven relationships are explored with reference to the global migration crisis, and South Africa’s battle with this plight. Through architecture, this research report introduces a ‘rebirth’ of the office for the Department of Home Affairs in the bustling Randburg CBD. It proposes a diverse and people-centred precinct of public buildings which reveal the ideals of citizenship, dignity, integrity, transparency, democracy and sustainability.
In third place with his entry “Théâtre de L' Absurde: A Parasitic Mediator Within Gold Reef City” is Aeron Stipanov
This thesis aims contextualize and understand the profoundly unequal city that Johannesburg is today. Shaped by the rise and fall of legally sanctioned segregation, Johannesburg currently demonstrates one of the world’s most socially, economically and spatially fragmented urban landscapes. Through the acknowledgment of growing anxieties within the city due to crime, it is the constructed enclave that has begun to dominate and configure a pattern of multiple urban formations. The proposed site is the popular capitalist enclave, Gold Reef City, that is situated on the south-western periphery of the CBD.
Its location and existing function present the ideal opportunity for the proposal of a new theatre typology, that allows for the boundary wall to be broken down in order to create a more inclusive urban formation. The new theatre typology is a parasitic building that intends to juxtapose all that already exists on site. It is a building that creates a platform for spectacle and escape, whilst being entirely accessible to strangers from all walks of life.
The best use of clay brick in a thesis project has been awarded to Gabrielle Cutler for her project entitled [RE] PURPOSE - Memory, meaning and hybrid culture of Johannesburg
She says, “the proposed site is located south of the railway, at what used to be known as, ‘Mvuyana Yard’ in New Doornfontein. Between the late 1800s and the Slums Removal Act of 1930, yards such as this could be found in residential suburbs at the edge of the city. Yards were spaces usually located at the back of residential properties with small rooms housing dense numbers of residents. New Doornfontein housed six main yards, with the built fabric of none remaining, except that of 24 Lower Ross Street. At this address a Pastor’s House and the African National Church, both built in 1922, still stand. Neighbouring, was the Central News Agency (CNA) compound.
The project explores ideas of memory in architecture and the heritage of Johannesburg. It aims to integrate users and uses while interrogating the intentions of the site’s existing buildings, all of which are brickwork. Their coarseness and dilapidation, illustrate the distinction between past and present, between present and absent. The use of brickwork in both the new and existing buildings intended to highlight the stark difference between what has been gentrified, neglected or regenerated.
The yards were, despite all intentions and efforts, the site of trans-cultural exchange. Despite its origins as a cultural adaptation giving way to new forms of identity and experience.
The design of a museum, a place for remembering and testifying, The existing decaying plaster and brickwork buildings form part of the display. An awareness of this type of architectural erasure is necessary before the area’s heritage is disregarded. It is representative of the historic citizen of Johannesburg, while appropriating memory in present-day.
Margeaux Adams will represent the University of Witwatersrand at the national finals to be held in Johannesburg in April 2018.