Young architects impress

by Tania Wannenburg
Corobrik student award Jnl 4 15

Corobrik has announced the 28th Architectural Student of the Year.

University of Johannesburg student, Harold Johnson, was announced as Corobrik’s 28th Architectural Student of the Year for his thesis entitled “The ‘dark’ city: Critical interventions in urban despair”.

When asked what inspired his thesis, Johnson explained that he was driven to challenge the normative student project convention of problem-then-a-solution (the building usually being the solution) and the tendency to design finite, jewel-like end-products.

He chose to do a project in the inner city, as typical architectural projects are usually on an open or clear site and are therefore safer and less challenging. “I was aware that inner-city development in Johannesburg is largely outsourced (by the city) to the private sector, so I wanted to know what happens when the city abandons its buildings and people,” he comments. He believes that his project demonstrated the ability of architects to re-frame and redefine any scenario, structure or environment.

Professor Lesley Lokko, who supervised Johnson’s thesis, says this project showed a determination to get as far under the skin of any given situation to be able to understand it properly, deeply and without compromise. The project was also unusual in that it was both a design thesis and a design thesis critique.

Apart from being recognised as one of South Africa’s best up-and-coming professionals in his field, Johnson won a prize of R50 000 in addition to the R8 000 he earned as winner of the regional final. Of the Corobrik prize money, Johnson will put 40% towards the continuation and amplification of this research and design.
Commendations for excellence
Two commendations for excellence in architecture were awarded to national winner Harold Johnson and Walter Raubenheimer from the University of Pretoria for his thesis, “Redefining industry: Architecture as a constructive extraction”. These commendations are given for exceptional projects that the juror panel considers able to compete on a world stage.

In his project, Raubenheimer made use of waste material on the site for the manufacturing of bricks that were incorporated into the architecture. For this consideration and the appropriate application of the bricks consistent with the design, Raubenheimer was awarded a R10 000 prize for the best use of bricks.

According to Corobrik managing director, Dirk Meyer, the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award was created to promote design excellence, and to acknowledge and reward talent among graduating architectural students.

Looking back over the work submitted by the finalists, Meyer comments that what stood out was the contribution that architecture could make to uplifting marginalised societies, regenerating disused sites, and the adaptive reuse or extension of use of the existing to advance the value of the built environment in eco-conscious ways.  

He says that through effectively recycling old buildings and disused sites, some of the students were looking at the issue of legacy in a whole new way, coming at a time when South Africans are questioning the legacy left behind in the form of inner-city buildings, historical sites and artefacts.

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