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Innovation blends with sustainability, social awareness and technical excellence in 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards

Innovative thinking is the mark of a fine architect and it will take innovation to meet the architectural challenges of the future. The many aspects which make up fine design include the principles of sustainability, appropriate built cost and attractive lifecycle costs, technical skill and an appreciation of the social context of a structure in its community. However, it is creative flair that sets great architects above their peers as they strive to make exceptional and meaningful contributions to South Africa’s diverse and multi-cultural landscape.

This was evident in the run-up to the 30th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, according to Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik.

The competition has been held annually for the past 29 years to reward and advance excellence in the profession nationwide.  It starts with regional rounds at eight major universities throughout South Africa. Then, the overall national winner from among the regional finalists is named and presented with a cheque for R50 000 at the 30th Architectural Student of the Year Awards function in Johannesburg in May 2017.

Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales KZN & Eastern Cape presented the awards to the winning students at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban. Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny was named the regional winner of R8 500, Frans Marx won second prize of R6 500, while Jean Paul D’Ahl received the third prize of R4 500. A R4 500 prize for the best use of clay masonry was also presented to Michael Blumrick.

Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny’s thesis entitled ‘Design for [bio] diversity’ explores the potential of architecture for ecological conservation, proposing an environmental awareness and water research facility in the context of Springfield industrial park/ uMgeni River catchment area, Durban.

Research revealed that human existence relies heavily on biodiverse ecosystems to survive, however as population increases, urbanisation and industrialisation occurs, resulting in natural areas often being exploited and degraded, most critically affecting the earth's fresh water systems.

De Marigny’s proposed architectural solution aims to draw an analogy between the machine-dominated environment of the Springfield industrial park and the natural ecosystems found within the uMgeni river. This was achieved through the concept of viewing architecture as similar to that of a mechanical prosthetic device, so that the architecture (industrial machine) could begin to act as rather a natural life support system in the context in which it exists (ecology).

 Attaching to an existing 440m long pedestrian walkway bridge spanning the width of the river the facility hosts minimal ecological footprint, in addition to providing direct access to the water body to ecologically filter both surface (plastics, rubbers, geo-polymers) and subsurface (human, industrial, agricultural) water pollutants that are accumulated as the watercourse passes through habited areas before reaching Durban’s coastline.

As a result, both the technological and ecological solutions used allows the architecture to act as a positive hybrid energy contributor, provide space for rehabilitation processes and is able to consistently produce and provide the public, tourists and researchers with fresh fish, vegetables, plants, seeds, flowers, biogas, fertilisers and clean water, who then have the option to relax and enjoy an organic meal, while overlooking the river, or take part in the various educational, ecotourism and research programs facilitated on site.

Frans Marx’s thesis explores alternative residential care facilities for the intermediate elder.   With a growing African population over 65 who have limited education and are often employed in the informal trade market this community are sole breadwinners, working well past their retirement age, making use Government Grants to support multi-generational/extended households.

Marx’s design was to “rethink” care facilities to accommodate low income elderly with extended families and secondly, to re-imagine the experience of living in a care facility in Warwick Triangle.

Jean Paul D’Ahl’s entry is ‘The role of the built environment in the conservation of natural eco-systems, a centre for biodiversity preservation on the banks of the uMgeni River, just below the Inanda Dam in Molweni.

Michael Blumrick explored the adaptive reuse of ‘problem buildings’ towards a multi-use building for urban regeneration in Durban.    The inner city of Durban has problem buildings and Blumrick’s thesis details how the buildings can be adapted to offer a positive contribution and reduce the current housing delivery crisis.  Sited in Gooram Street, the abandoned parking garage, owned by the province has the potential to be adapted into a mixed-use building.  Blumrick said, “The use of clay brick was evident as a major component of the existing building. The aim was to sustainably reuse this brick in the alteration, reaping the benefit of its embodied energy, as well as setting the aesthetic for new components. Brick is affordable, durable and has great thermal and acoustic properties. Un-rendered clay brick has a rawness and honesty that adds a dynamic dimension, simply by utilising it in its natural and original form.”

“The right choice of materials plays a key role in the architectural process, particularly when one considers the sustainability imperative”, said Dangers.

“Clay brick is a fine example of a sustainable building material which offers a myriad of benefits, whilst adding distinctive aesthetic and textural appeal and the ability to meet unique challenges in design and construction. Brick in application can accommodate virtually any shape or form.”

“From an economic point of view, clay brick requires minimal maintenance and provides thermal efficiency which contributes to improved indoor comfort in all temperatures and lower energy costs throughout the life of a building,” Dangers said. “This translates into the lowest lifecycle costs for buildings and ensures that the first cost is essentially the last cost.”

“Student architects over the decades have discovered that clay brick is a quality building product with a natural propensity to express the craft of architecture in beautiful and memorable ways as they begin a career that will enable them to enhance the built environment of South Africa into the future.”

 

Caption:

Pictured at the University of KwaZulu-Natal for the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year regional awards are from left to right Lawrence Ogunsanya, Head of the Department of Architecture at UKZN, Juan Solis-Arias, Second Year Master Coordinator and Lecturer in Architecture at the School of Built Environment and Development Studies UKZN.  Also  Allin Dangers Director of Sales, KZN & Eastern Cape, winner Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marginy,  Ruben Reddy Architect and  president of the KZN Institute for Architectecture  and Kevin Bingham president of SA Institute of Architects