UP architectural student wins award with her 21st century textile mill design.
A student from the University of Pretoria, Heidi van Eeden, has won the first place in Corobrik’s 27th Architectural Student of the Year Award with her thesis “Machinarium: Architecture as a living machine, a 21st century textile mill”.
This has earned her prize money of R50 000, in addition to the R8 000 prize money she won at the regional final in September last year.
The Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards were created to promote quality design and to acknowledge talent among architectural students.
Van Eeden’s winning dissertation alludes to new ways of architectural place-making in a rapidly changing, 21st-century world. The project investigated the potential of industry as urban catalyst to regenerate urban environments and re-integrate fragmented socio-ecological systems.
In an attempt to redefine modern concepts of waste and mitigate pollution emanating from industrialisation, the investigation is focused on the re-structuring of the textile industry and is contextually based in an urban wasteland – the Daspoort Wastewater and Sewage Treatment Works.
“The site is re-programmed as part of a new industrial ecology, an architectural system which re-uses wastewater and other untapped resources on site to produce textiles and algae-based dye. By integrating local urban communities and natural eco-systems with this industrial space, this 21st-century textile mill is designed as a holistic environment which blurs present-day distinctions between social, productive and natural space, and proves that there is productive value in the resources we discard as waste,” she stated in the abstract to her dissertation.
Edna Perez, who supervised Van Eeden’s thesis, points out that, in a world where architecture’s ability to navigate an uncertain future was increasingly being questioned, Van Eeden explored one of the biggest challenges of our time – how to transform wasted sites, structures and land into regenerated sites within which life can flourish.
“Her project challenges our perceptions about waste and industry, and finds alternatives for these processes in a part of the capital which is considered as an urban wasteland. She creates a building that sees potential for life in every aspect of functionality, from processes to materials.
“Her architectural solution provides a tangible solution that not only functions efficiently like a machine, using closed loop systems, but also provides the intangible qualities necessary to promote the well-being of social-ecological networks,” she said.
Perez praised Van Eeden for boldly tackling a complex subject. “She not only showed that architecture can be used to facilitate the design of an ecological industry, but it can also elegantly provide aesthetic qualities associated with daily life expressed in a diversity of South African cultures,” she added.
Corobrik’s managing director, Dirk Meyer, says there had been an exciting evolution in the architectural debate surrounding issues related to sustainability, which was clearly manifesting in the work and thinking of the architects of tomorrow.
This new urban architecture not only concentrates on environmental issues, but on more deep-routed social issues associated with the creation of a built environment. Through rejuvenating dilapidated structures rather than completely rebuilding them, precious resources were conserved and the history of the site was integrated with modern lifestyles.
“It is significant that such a thesis manifests a design ethic that strives to deliver a richer environment, catering for future generations at a significant time in our country’s history – the celebration of 20 years of democracy,” he said.
The judges in their critique commented: “This project reconnects a community with its history and with a nearby river, as well as looking at the idea of waste as a resource. It achieves a well-considered urban design resolution.
“The completeness and thorough examination of the design of a complex building type is exemplary. This level of research and resolution could be applied to address similar urban problems.”
They also expressed confidence that this building is buildable and that it will be an asset to the City of Tshwane.
This year’s judges were the president of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA), Sindile Ngonyama, and two professional architects, Ruben Reddy and Amanda Katz.
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