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Sustainability in building design has won Renée Minnaar of the University of Pretoria a place at 31st Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards


Sustainable building demands architectural design that aims to minimise negative environmental impacts through efficiency and balance in the use of materials, energy and development space. It is a mindful approach to energy and ecological conservation in the creation of the built environment.

This was apparent in the designs submitted for the 31st Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards according to Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik.

In this annual competition, the country’s best architectural students from eight major universities are identified based on their final theses and presented with awards at regional events. The winners of each of the regional competitions then go on to compete for the national title and a prize of R50 000 at the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards which this year will be held in Johannesburg in April 2018.

Liza Corgne, Key Accounts Manager – Architects presented the awards to the winning students at University of Pretoria. Renée Minnaar was named the regional winner of R8 500, Jan Diedeleff van Aswegen won second prize of R6 500, while Chrisna Viljoen received the third prize of R4 500. A R4 500 prize for the best use of clay masonry was also presented to Nick Randall.

Renée Minnaar’s thesis is entitled, ‘Remediator – Restoring the dichotomous relationship between industry and nature through an urban eco-textile mill and dye house.’

She says, ‘Industrialization brought about dramatic changes in many major cities around the world, including Johannesburg. However, rapid technological advancements have resulted in the abandonment of many industrial sites often within the confines of expanding cities as is the case with the old Johannesburg Gasworks.

The repercussions of the hazardous industrial processes of the past are still present on the site in the form of pollution. This, together with South Africa’s lack of protection of our industrial heritage, has awoken the fear that these post-industrial artefacts might be in danger of becoming extinct if their value is not recognised.

This dissertation aims to investigate the potential of redundant industrial sites like the old Johannesburg Gasworks to mitigate the environmental and social issues resulting from the past in an attempt to reintegrate the site back into the surrounding urban fabric. Through the understanding and application of environmental and heritage theories, this dissertation hopes to find a means of using architecture as a tool to mediate the dichotomous relationship between industry and nature, resulting from an exploitative world view, and inspire a new archetype for industrial architecture, that is able to inspire mutually beneficial relationships between industry and nature, whilst creating a didactic and dialectical relationship between the existing industrial heritage of the past and the envisioned contemporary architecture of the future.:

In second place is Jan Diedeleff van Aswegen, with his thesis entitled ‘The Third Retort’ This is a research station for process, energy and technology. It is situated on the old Johannesburg Gas Works site. This project contextualises energy research and uses wet biomass to natural gas process to expose different research fields through the architecture. The architecture is a restitutive historical link to a polluted landscape.  The architecture is situated in the same geometry as the first two retorts, creating dialogue through a spatial narrative where constructive engagement with the public is encouraged.

Chrisna Viljoen’s thesis is entitled ‘Urban Consulate’ It is an ecosystem facilitating the re-imagination of the urban through arrival and performance.   Urban Consulate is an exploration of urban exchange and growth within the 21st century paradigm.  This dissertation investigates the potential of reclaimed civic space within the city, as an urban catalyst for city growth– a platform with which to regenerate meaningful participation within the urban environments and ensure densification without negation and destruction.

Nick Randall’s award for the best use of clay brick is for his thesis entitled ‘Public culture intertwined’ in which he melds public practise and cultural rituals through the Pretoria Museum in Tshwane South Africa.  He proposes and extension that can serve the cosmopolitan society of Arcadia.

Corgne said, “It was clear during the judging that the student architects recognise that the choice of building materials has significant long-term implications for environmental impact. Building materials that are generally considered to be ‘green’ are those that are durable, non-toxic, reusable, energy efficient and low maintenance. As brick manufacturers in South Africa for more than a century, we can say with confidence that our clay face brick has all of these attributes as well as being aesthetically pleasing and providing a healthy and comfortable living environment.”

“In addition, most processes in the manufacture of Corobrik clay bricks are in line with stringent local and international standards which place a high premium on sustainability.”

“These are factors which aspiring architects need to take into account when creating new additions to the built environment in South Africa ensuring that their projects are socially responsible as well as functional, engaging and in harmony with the surrounding landscape. The designs we are seeing demonstrate this awareness which augurs well for the future of South African architecture.”

Caption:   Renée Minnaar is the regional winner for the University of Pretoria in the Corobrik Architectural Student Awards.     She is pictured with her thesis model, entitled Remediator – Restoring the dichotomous relationship between industry and nature through an urban eco-textile mill and dye house.’

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