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Darren Sampson’s innovation and technical skill resulted in his award at the University of Johannesburg regional event

Innovation is the standout quality that differentiates design resolutions and helps define architecture as special and appreciated by one’s peers. Innovation in sync with context provides the delight factor permitting architectural design to compete comfortably on the world stage. Technical skill, the ability to create memorable form that draws one in while treading softly on our planet is what puts the finishing touches to sustainable architecture. South African architecture continues to take positive strides also demonstrating an extra creative dimension unique in a country where the shaping of the urban landscape requires an appreciation of the complexities of creating an inclusive built environment. 


This was said by Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik, ahead of the 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, which are held annually to acknowledge and reward outstanding talent in South Africa.


The competition involves 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 in Johannesburg in May 2017.


Dave Ledbitter, Corobrik’s Sales manager presented prizes to the winners from University of Johannesburg.  Darren Sampson won first prize of R8 500, second prize of R6 500 went to Matthew Robson and third prize of R4 500 was presented to Mxolisi Makhubo.   An additional prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Ruairidh Macleod


Darren Sampson’s thesis is entitled ‘The Light House’.   He says. “this is not a conventional thesis project. It builds itself around a personal interest of light and dark.”


The Light House is an architectural proposition that uses a palette of light and dark for form, material, substance, and mood. It consists of several design experimentations from the creations of exiting atmospheric phenomena and character development to aid a narrative, to the quality of spatial experiences that would exist around the Pier, within the Tower, Achieve I, the Observatory of Two and the Keeper House.


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 the project since everyone who visits it constructs it differently. Sampson used several methods from script writing to photography and film to explore dark and light with in dark spaces. 


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, the capital city of Cape Verde.


In second place Matthew Robson’s entry is ‘THEATRICAL TACTICS’ which is an urban praxis and the spectacle city.  This project is a social media representation in the city introducing time as a medium of architecture practice.


In third place Mxolisi Makhubo’s thesis is entitled ‘Illicit Surfaces: From Utopia to Centrism’ uses an abandoned building in Hillbrow to provide the opportunity for people living on the fringes of society to ply their trade.

Winning the best use of clay brick category, Ruairidh Macleod’s thesis is entitled, ‘Architecture of Influence’.  Building on the Resilience of Place; a Youth Support Centre in Diepkloof, Soweto.


The project explores how inhabitants, (man and animals) influence the environments they create and how these environments influence them in return.  Macleod proposes a youth support centre to fulfil the need for further education, entrepreneurial stimulation and emotional support for the youth of Diepkloof. The building is located on the edge between the wetland and the suburb of Diepkloof, Soweto. The current condition of the site shows how human settlement has had a perverse influence over the wetland with thousands of litres of sewage overflowing into the wetland daily. 


The project begins with a wetland filtration system that cleans the polluted water through phytoremediation, thereby providing a water source that can support wetland activities such as subsistence farming and biodiversity, resulting in social and economic activity.


By damming and widening parts of the wetland soil would need to be removed from the site. This soil will be used by the community to make unfired clay bricks and used to construct the youth support centre which will become a place of positive influence for residents of Diepkloof.


Ledbitter said that all the winners had shown a close affinity with their subjects and that their designs both enhanced and integrated with the communities in which they were sited.


Speaking about trends in the profession Ledbitter said that Corobrik had noticed a resurgence both internationally and locally in the appreciation of clay brick as a material with important flexibility in design and yet with intrinsic sustainable qualities so appropriate for advancing the affordability of government building projects.


“Life time aesthetics, durability and thermal efficiency are just three of the attributes of clay masonry which ensure low lifecycle costs and satisfy sustainability needs, in addition to allowing flexibility for innovative and aesthetically appealing design. These are important attributes which enable architects to create memorable and relevant additions to the built environment in South Africa using clay brick.”


Caption: Darren Sampson is the winner of the University of Johannesburg regional event of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award.  Darren Sampson’s thesis is entitled ‘The Light House’.   The Light House is an architectural proposition that uses a palette of light and dark for form, material, substance, and mood.


From left are all the winners:  Mxolisi Makhubo third place, Matthew Robson second place, Darren Sampson, winner, and  Ruairidh Macleod who received the award for best use of clay masonry