Building freedom

2016-02-24 06:00
MUSA SHANGASE presents Nilene van Niekerk with her certificate for winning the regional finals of the Corobrik architectural student of the year awards. Photo: David Ledbitter

MUSA SHANGASE presents Nilene van Niekerk with her certificate for winning the regional finals of the Corobrik architectural student of the year awards. Photo: David Ledbitter

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THE winner from the University of the Free State, Nilene van Niekerk, presented her winning architectural thesis, Freedom of Expression Forum, on Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, at the regional finals of the Corobrik architectural student of the year awards.

South African architecture continues to take positive strides while demonstrating an extra creative dimension unique in a country where the shaping of the urban landscape requires an appreciation of the complexities of creating an inclusively built environment.

Through innovative designs and ever-developing architectural technology, the country is receiving remarkable designs that benefit the increasing urban population, as per government requirements. This was said by Dirk Meyer, managing director of Corobrik, ahead of the 29th Corobrik architectural student of the year awards, which are held annually to acknowledge and reward outstanding talent in South Africa.

The competition involves the country’s eight major universities where the best architectural students 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 at the 29th Corobrik student architect of the year awards in Johannesburg in May 2016.

Musa Shangase, commercial director at Corobrik, presented prizes to the winners from the University of the Free State.

Nilene van Niekerk won the first prize of R8 500, the second prize of R6 500 went to Arend Jooste and the third prize of R4 500 was presented to Laura-Anne Fox. An additional prize of R4 500 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Nadene de Lange.

Freedom of Expression Forum is Nilene van Niekerk’s winning thesis. It is a principle of protest against curtailment of freedom of speech reinterpreted as place. Van Niekerk says the project developed by examining the Secrecy Bill. This led to an investigation into the intimidation of journalists through the controversial Secrecy Bill.

Although freedom of expression and the press are generally protected practices according to South Africa’s constitution, the persistent role of the government in protecting state information is a substantial threat to citizens’ constitutional right to freedom of expression. Government’s attempt to block cellular phone signals during the State of the Nation Address in February 2015 is one of many examples of this imposing threat.

This inevitably influenced the idea of creating a Freedom of Expression Forum within the direct vicinity of Constitution Hill in Johannesburg. The tower provides protection to journalists, becomes a pivotal point where classified information can be sent to and archived, as well as establishing a public space that encourages communication.

De Lange’s entry is Puncturing the urban wall between dweller and nature, which is an Urban Healthcare Centre situated in Bloemfontein’s central business district.

The proposed healthcare centre aims to create an architectural typology that responds well to the existing constructed environment. Facebrick and plastered clay brickwork is used to continue the existing texture and material language of the constructed environment.

Facebrick is used as infill wall panels between the concrete structure and screen walls to enclose the service shafts. The screen walls add a visual, porous layer to the building and simultaneously allow for natural ventilation. Facebrick is a widely-used material in the Bloemfontein central business district and requires minimal labour intensity for installation. The clay brickwork is economically viable and cost effective.

Shangase said all the winners had shown a close affinity with their subjects and that their designs both enhanced and integrated with the communities in which they were sited.

Speaking about trends in the profession, he said that Corobrik had noticed a resurgence both internationally and locally in the appreciation of clay brick as a material with important flexibility in design and yet with intrinsic sustainable qualities so appropriate for advancing the affordability of government building projects.

“Whilst clay brick has always been well represented in high-end commercial projects, we are seeing more of it being specified for public schools, hospitals, clinics and affordable housing because of the multiple benefits the material brings to a construction project,” said Shangase.

“Lifetime aesthetics, durability and thermal efficiency are just three of the attributes of clay masonry which ensure low lifecycle costs and satisfy sustainability needs, in addition to allowing flexibility for innovative and aesthetically appealing design.

“Although the constant influx of technological innovation provides architects with a wealth of options when designing buildings, we find they consistently turn to clay brick for construction, because of its proven performance.”

Shangase said that the winners in the Corobrik architectural student of the year awards had shown outstanding maturity, innovation and technical skill in their designs, which were a credit to the profession in both local and global terms.

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