A superb line up of finalists for Corobrik’s thirty-first year of sponsorship of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award

by | Feb 22, 2019 | Featured Slider, Latest, News

Dirk Meyer, Corobrik’s Managing Director commented on the excellent standard of entries for this year’s awards.  “Finalists have incorporated sustainable architecture with innovation, technology and creative building design in their entries for this year’s event to be held on the 7th May in Johannesburg.”

Each of the regional winners has been judged top of their tertiary institution and will compete against each other at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg.   The winner to be announced on the evening of the 7th May 2019 will receive a prize of R70 000.

Nelson Mandela University

Winner Riaan Huiskens

Thesis title “The design of a 3D printing facility in Central, Port Elizabeth.  

High-tech architecture is moving towards a paradigm shift with the development and incorporation of digital fabrication technology. This interest is extended into the discussion of recycling existing infrastructure. In this treatise, a topic which ties into both the heritage and ecological discourse. It recognises the significance of historical urban elements and the finite quality of heritage resources within the city.

A historical building used as a host for the design of a 3D printing facility invites a dialogue between architecture of the old and the expression of the new. The Premier Mill Building is identified as an historical urban artefact and the programme complements the historical background of the building, which was a granary. The primary architectural exploration focuses on the possibilities offered by 3D printing in the making and expression of architecture. The nature of the facility organises function before sign. Meaning the initial architecture lies in the systematic operations of the facility as a place of digital fabrication. Therefore, it focuses on successfully incorporating existing infrastructure as functioning components to the system. Secondly the building is a sign of its function, a visual opportunity for a new architecture to reflect the nature of the facility.

Tshwane University of Technology

Winner Ruan Jansen van Rensburg

Thesis title: The design of an innovation Farm in Mamelodi

The project proposes an innovation farm adjacent to the Eerste Fabrieke train station in Mamelodi in an attempt to contribute responsibly to the dilapidated socio-economic structures and provide the community with educational platforms to strengthen self-sufficiency while contributing to micro-economies in the area.

The investigation deals with two core ideas and the Innovation farm mediates between them. On the one side, the project investigates Mamelodi, specifically Eerste fabrieke station and its surrounding neighbourhoods as experimental ground for this study, and on the other side, the positive attributes of Cannabis plants specifically cannabis sativa (Industrial hemp), as an accessible and affordable alternative resource, predominantly as a construction material in an underdeveloped context.

Poor social structures, infrastructure and living conditions overshadow the cultural vibrancy of local design, entrepreneurship and innovation in the area and suggest an opportunity for architectural intervention to promote local agriculture and socio-economic upliftment. The programmes within the innovation farm becomes interactive and accessible to the surrounding community and public through a series of platforms which showcases the applications of hemp through social spaces and the tectonics of the building. Communal manufacturing, production, trading and educational facilities integrate the building with its surrounding urban fabric and aim to establish a sense of ownership and acknowledgement from stakeholders within the community.

University of Cape Town

Winner Anthony Whitaker

Title of Thesis: Builders, Agriculturalists, and Interpreters — architecture by Narration

The project is based on fieldwork research and observations of social practices in Gugulethu, Cape Town. Three architectural approaches make up the project – a building system (Part1: Proto-town), that system as building (Part 2: Proto-type), and that building system as urban model (Part 3: Proto-town).

The first considers buildability and materiality. A proposal for a replicable building system found and resolved in the practice of autonomous building, characteristic of under-resourced and marginalized neighbourhoods in South African cities – the Proto-Logue. The Proto-Logue is a replicable building system that aims to simplify the planning and building process of construction, enabling non-experts to build and to have a controlling influence over the design process. Using basic products of industry and skills that are commonly known and understood, it responds to the people who build them and is intended to be easily altered.

The Proto-Type is a small timber structure hosted to a 6m ISO shipping container.  Its construction involves simple timber detailing adapted from the Proto-Logue. The Proto-Type is conceived as a multi-use ancillary programme to the farm’s activities; a container makes storing equipment safe and easy, a raised floor offers much-needed space for admin related activity. The adjacent meeting space opens towards the educational crops. It is a place for recreational activities and educational workshops.

The third begins to project new possibilities informed by the previous two parts. The defunct King David Country Club, North of Gugulethu, is appropriated and imagined as a Proto-Town. A proposal for an urban model generated by the architectural interpretation of autonomous building and subsistence practices as explored in Part 1 and 2.

The communal hall is the largest and most prominent structure of all in the Proto-town. Its construction involves the most elaborate technologies of all structures. The hall is conceived as being built first, it will accommodate a range of programmes in a sequence of phases. First, a timber workshop and yard for the construction phase of homes and public spaces; a place to build and learn how to build from each other. Once construction of the town progresses the demand for the workshops will be reduced to the necessary maintenance workshops. These structures are designed to then comfortably hold a gathering of 100+ users, be a place for lectures, meetings, large dinners, provide shelter and sense of place, care and welcome.

University of the Free State

Winner Samuel Pellissier

Lamu: An Architectural Investigation of Time and Place

While touring eastern Africa on a bicycle in early 2017, we came across an ancient Swahili port city called Lamu. This World Heritage site resonates with the rhythms of time, and the rich culture of its people identifies the place. This determined the cornerstones of this thesis as Time and Place.

As an outsider, I became a student of the ways of Lamu, the religion, the lifestyle and the culture, with specific interest in the traditional methods of Dhow-building and donkey transportation. The aim was to design an architectural response that accommodates these methods, while respecting the cultural heritage.

The remote location of Lamu provided practical challenges which were resolved by using building techniques and materials, known to the island, in a newly imagined way that aims to inspire, rather than prescribe.

The project aspired to portray something similar to Breyten Breytenbach’s theory of the “Middle world”, an in-between place that accommodates the dweller where he might find himself between land and see.

The designed building consists of dry-docks for Dhow repairs and building, a workshop for finer crafts such as sail making and furniture weaving, and a sanctuary for donkeys to be looked after. So this thesis became a place where the dweller, the Dhow and the donkey can come to find repairs and sanctuary.

University of Johannesburg

Winner Elao Martin

Title of Thesis: Reimagining Kitintale’s landscape through clay brick making

Clay brick making in Kampala, Uganda, is one of many activities that have negatively affected wetlands’ ecosystems. An age old way of making; the process has created visible scars in the wetlands landscape through the mining of clay soil as miners clear large areas of land and vegetation for the raw materials used to make the bricks, leaving the soil barren, and the wetland unable to work as a carbon sink and water filter, or provide natural resources used for subsistence.

The radical design proposition is for the digging of clay soil for the brick making process, to create an edge or buffer between the informal settlement of Kitintale, and the wetland.  This dug edge in the landscape will prevent the informal settlement from encroaching further into the wetland. As this protective edge of the wetland will inevitably transverse many human activities in the wetland such as farming, the project also explores ways that the process of clay brick making and its devices, can be colonized, and appropriated by these activities to create a sustainable landscape, long after the clay brick makers have left.

Through seasonal flooding, and after the water has subsided, the silt left behind will encourage farming activity to take up the area excavated and the wetland can regenerate itself, while maintain the terraced landscape that acts as a protective edge.

University of Kwa Zulu-Natal

Winner Shuaib Bayat

Title of Thesis: Exploring solar energy design systems in peri-urban settlements for responsive architecture:  Towards the design of a multipurpose upcycling skills centre in Cato Manor.

Presently, cities are contested with escalating global and socio-challenges in peri-urban settlements. However, this places an emphasis on individuals to incorporate sustainable development approaches within their city’s government’s structural model. Together with environmental concerns, sustainable development approaches also includes the strategies to improve socio-economic issues as well. South African cities have adopted the burden of the apartheid city dominance, as the spatial segregation sill reflects presently. Since the South African post-apartheid governance, the current approaches implemented towards the city’s development has only aggravated the issues adding towards the inefficiency of cities. Within the context of the urban fabric, cities are filled with numerous socio-economic inequalities, prevent the accessibility of basics services for the marginalized communities.

The thesis investigates the possibility of creating an architectural model for developing a solar energy harvested upcycling centre which can contribute to the concept of Liveable Urbanism as well as to empower insurgent communities towards the energy deficient, socio-economic and waste pollution challenges in Peri-Urban settlements, such as the Cato Manor District. Sustainable development is the primary strategy towards Liveable Urbanism, where it is understood as a process which involves leading a society on a development pathway that is social, economic and environmentally sustainable for self-sustenance. An essential element of sustainable development is reducing vulnerability, caused by contextual conditions and multiple stressors. This thesis will further examine how socio-economic factors shape the vulnerability of the context in the Cato Manor District.

University of Pretoria

Winner Ferdinand le Grange

Title of Thesis: Prospect Portal: A Layered Landscape

The intention of the project was to question the seemingly inevitable fate of industrial heritage sites in Johannesburg— pollution and eventual erasure. It did so through exploring the potential re-use, regeneration and future prospects of the Village Main No. 1 Shaft site in Johannesburg.

This led to an investigation into the role of regenerative layering as an architectural strategy for dealing with threatened industrial heritage and polluted landscapes.

The application of regenerative principles, combined with layering as an industrial heritage approach, led to the development of an approach to adaptive re-use architecture capable of incorporating the past, resolving current issues and ensuring a productive future.

The programme, a facility for bio-prospecting and bio-design, allows for the creation of an inter-connected and closed-loop productive and economic system for the site capable of catalysing related and new industries in the surrounding industrial zone as well as providing public interfaces to the forgotten site.

The proposed architecture celebrates and enhances the relationship between the scarred landscape and the latent industrial heritage by re-connecting the mine, platform and surrounding building cluster. The space between these becomes a public space with new value and programmes.

The design suggests a proto-type for dealing with threatened industrial heritage in Johannesburg and South Africa. It demonstrates an approach to regenerating latent and polluted sites through a process of layering capable of expressing past, present and future prospects.

University of the Witwatersrand

Winner Jason Ngibuini

Title of Thesis: Sherehe ya chai: Transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular as an immersive tea tasting retreat

In Kenya, tea plays a crucial role in the development of the country’s economy, accounting for 22% of its total exports. Being the third largest producer of black tea in the world, Kenya’s Tea industry is struggling due to the subsequent shortfall of exports lagging behind high levels of production. This thesis aims to expand on Kenya’s Tea Directorate’s plans to increase local consumption from 6.6% to 15% within the next five years by proposing a tea tasting retreat in Limuru, Kenya. The tea tasting retreat would allow visitors to gain an understanding of tea cultivation, tea production as well as the health benefits of tea consumption.

The tea tasting retreat would combine the programme of a greenhouse, tea production factory and tea house in order to allow visitors to experience a journey that starts with a tea leaf in the plantations and ends with tea tasting.

Furthermore, this thesis has helped me rediscover my cultural roots in Kenya and expand on my mother’s childhood stories around Kikuyu traditions, customs and way of life. Having been brought up in South Africa, research into Kikuyu traditional architecture was completely new to me and the application of post-colonial theory provided a base point to gain an understanding of how Kikuyu cultural practices influenced architectural space. With continuous discussions around post-colonial architecture in Kenya, a focus is put on the transmutation of Kikuyu vernacular architecture in order to ensure the cultural continuity of skills and expertise that are bound within traditional knowledge. The reinterpretation of these skills or expertise would not only enhance the visitor’s experience but also challenge the role of post-colonial theory in the search for Kenyan identity in contemporary architecture.


This annual competition enables Corobrik, the country’s leading producer of clay brick, to recognise the shining lights on the architectural map of the future. The top students from eight major universities are identified based on their final theses and presented with awards throughout the year.

This event allows students of today to chart the way forward during challenging times for developing countries such as South Africa which not only had to embrace the advances of the day but use these to address things that were unique to Africa whilst also embracing its cultural heritage.

Dirk Meyer said, “no matter how pressing the needs and challenges of our immediate built environment, we cannot forget that we exist in a global context. The world has embarked on a fourth revolution that has already ushered in unprecedented change and disruption and will continue to do so. We have seen the demise of the vinyl record and the analogue camera and the birth of new brands such as Uber, AirBNB and Google. Newspapers and magazines, book publishers and even the postal service are struggling to move with the times and stay relevant.”


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