A thesis that seeks to rethink the railway infrastructure that historically shaped and divided the urban landscape in South Africa has seen Linda Lesolle from the University of Johannesburg declared a regional winner in the 2022 Corobrik Student Architecture Awards.

Linda receives a R10 000 prize and the opportunity to compete in the national awards. “I am humbled to have won. I am grateful and appreciative to Corobrik for this platform, which recognises architectural talent,” says Linda. “It means a great deal to me. I look forward to showcase my thesis along other regional winners and being exposed to how other universities work.”

Highlighting talent, creativity, innovation, and inspiration, the Corobrik Student Architecture Awards is all about jump-starting careers, building the industry, and designing tomorrow. Regional winners are selected from major universities, based on the students’ final theses. These regional winners then go through to the national round, where the top title is awarded, plus a R70 000 grand prize.

Commenting on the importance of the Corobrik Student Architecture Awards, Linda adds: “I would encourage other companies to take the initiative to recognise young talent. Such initiatives offer good exposure for young people starting out in their careers. Thank you to Corobrik for this amazing opportunity.”

Entitled ‘Stimela: The Re-urbanisation of a ghost train station’, Linda’s thesis reimagines train stations as an urban catalyst tool for future African cities and mobilities. According to the UN-HABITAT Global Report on Human Settlements (2009), urban mobility is a key element of sustainable urbanisation in response to social and economic challenges in developing countries. This posits that mobility is far more than just the movement of people from one place to another, but refers to people’s accessibility and connectivity to different urban environments and opportunities.

Linda’s thesis focused on the vandalised and abandoned commuter rail stations along Johannesburg’s industrial mining belt as “a toxic site and acupuncture point for a design intervention.” It is a speculative project grounded within a pragmatic context, presenting a thought-provoking scheme for reimagining future rail infrastructure and African mobility.

In addition, Tebogo Kgatla clinched a R6 000 prize for Best Use of Clay Masonry for his thesis entitled ‘Looking At Building Practices in South Africa’. Tebogo adds that the Corobrik Student Architecture Awards are important in instilling a sense of pride and dignity in the architectural profession. “Thank you to Corobrik and its supportive staff for the recognition.”

The construction industry plays a vital role in South Africa’s economy and is a significant contributor to economic growth. By immersing himself in the building site environment, Tebogo hoped to observe and document at a fine-grain level. The project looked to subvert the traditional hierarchies of architect and builder to make the design process more collaborative and more of a feedback loop, where making informs design and vice versa.

“I was fortunate enough to have been given a variety of miniature Corobrik bricks, which allowed me to conceptualise brick-laying opportunities, as well as being sponsored a pallet of mixed bricks from the Midrand factory,” says Tebogo. These were Firelight Travertine, Onyx Satin, Platinum Satin, Roan Satin and Sapphire Satin.

Brick architecture allows its technology to be true to its architecture, unlike newer technology that is only understood by those assembling it. It is also sustainable and economically suitable for the South African context due to the large proportion of the population that is unskilled and unemployed. The fact that it is labour intensive means there is an opportunity for craftsmen to create something unique and beautiful.

This year the national awards will again be a hybrid event held in June, following a similar format as in 2021. The 2019 awards ceremony was postponed due to Covid-19, with Corobrik instead announcing the 2019 and 2020 winners at a combined event last year. “We are very excited to celebrate the 35th edition of the awards. It has been an incredibly exciting and richly fulfilling journey,” highlights Corobrik Marketing Support Manager Thilo Sidambaram, who herself has been involved with the awards for two decades.

“Our relationship with the awards goes back some 35 years, and it is one that has proved very enlightening for Corobrik. It has added a lot of depth and enriched the architectural profession by allowing young up-and-coming architects to express themselves and show the kinds of directions they believe architecture should be going in,” comments Corobrik CEO Nick Booth. Since 1986, the awards have placed 34 winners on the architectural map, both in leading practices as well as their own firms.

WinnerLinda LesolleR10 000
1st Runner-UpMiliswa NdzibaR  8 000
2nd Runner-UpGio RechR  6 000
Best Use of Clay MasonryTebogo KgatlaR  6 000

Visit studentawards.corobrik.co.za for more information about the Corobrik Student Architecture Awards.

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