World-class architectural design has many contributing elements – innovation, creative flair, aesthetic excellence, great functionality and increasingly, the need for sustainability and care for the environment. “Environmental imperatives have created greater circumspection by architects towards reducing energy and water usage and there is the clear trend now towards the specification and application of sustainable building materials and technologies.”
So says Christie van Niekerk of Corobrik, who presented prizes to the winners from University of Cape Town at one of the eight regional prize giving ceremonies building up to the 28th Corobrik Student Architect of the Year Awards.
“A fine example of a sustainable building material is clay brick, appreciated by architects internationally for the materials basket of intrinsic qualities – durability, longevity beyond a 100 years, low maintenance, natural thermal properties that contribute to superior thermal comfort and energy efficiency and clay bricks capacity for reuse and recycling,” he said.
This year seven of the Masters Students chose to incorporate clay brick into their thesis, revealing their support for the simple brick and its relevance as a sustainable building material.
“There is also the growing appreciation of the design opportunity that the brick format provides. Brick in application is able to accommodate virtually any shape or form, emphasise design and individualise architecture. The added environmental benefit, of course, is that clay brick is a material with mineral properties recognised for meeting all necessary requirements for healthy living.”
“Sustainability is one of the many factors that student architects need to take into account if they wish to play meaningful roles in shaping the built environments of South Africa in the years to come.”
The annual Architectural Student of the Year Awards has encouraged and rewarded innovation and technical expertise amongst the country’s most promising architectural students for nearly three decades in an on-going bid to advance excellence in the profession across the nation.
At the University of Cape Town Awards Ceremony, the first prize of R8000 was presented to Simon Henstra, second prize of R6000 went to Ina du Toit and third prize of R4000 was won by Anthon Bernard. An additional prize of R5000 for the best use of clay masonry was awarded to Brent Carelse.
Simon Henstra’s thesis is entitled “Inner-city palimpsest: building the city above the city.’’
This dissertation emerged from a fascination with the rich urban and architectural fabric of dense inner-cities, and the layered palimpsest, and a strong sense of character as a result of the piecemeal evolution of the city over time. There is a vast amount of airspace above the existing city which is being underutilised and underdeveloped.
The strategy proposes that existing buildings are extended upwards and outwards, and by transferring the development rights of the neighbouring erven, unlocks and utilises the existing unused airspace.
By utilising the underutilised existing airspace in the city, the project adds residential density to the city and contributes a new public realm and public facilities which is an asset to its surroundings and neighbours. It unlocks a new realm above the ground plane and explores the relationship between verticality and cross-programming. Lastly, its physical resolution represents and contributes to the timeous evolutionary palimpsest that is the city’s urban fabric.
Second place winner Ina du Toit’s project is called: The Hidden Life of Montrose; strategies for building in an historic environment. In her dissertation, she says that buildings have lived and accumulate meaning and richness and re-use is preferable to demolition.
Montrose is one of 12 buildings on the site, which occupies a large piece of land right next to the historic Leeuwenhof, Waterhof and Welgemeend farm homesteads in the Upper Table Valley. Montrose refers to a specific building on site and has been a house, a hotel, a university residence and in her scheme, a restaurant and hotel again. De Toit proposes that the site is developed to include residences, but also to develop it as a satellite campus for the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Hospitality Management School.
In third place, Anthon Bernard has proposed a wine cooperative for Jamestown, Stellenbosch to support farm workers by offering a socially sustainable cooperative.
Receiving the Best use of Clay for his entry Provoking Technophilia: The Umfundisi Tech Centre, (Woodstock, Cape Town) Brent Carelse’s concept stemmed from an idea that society finds it difficult to understand even everyday technologies. His Technophilia promotes spaces where people can learn about and more deeply appreciate the technological.
In the design, he chose to use a contrast between face brick, and a contemporary steel and glass construction in order to acknowledge the areas industrial heritage (in particular the Old Castle Brewery across from the site), whilst still inspiring a sense of marvel for the wonder of modern technology.
UCT Associate Professor Nicholas Coetzer said, “This year’s students generally worked on three kinds of projects:
i) those dealing with urban issues and buildings,
ii) those engaging with programme and type and,
iii) those pursuing history, landscape and environmental projects.
Despite these general groupings the work exhibits the capacity of our students to pursue projects through an incredible range of issues and through a singular and highly original trajectory. The work is of a very good standard but was unfortunately not developed to the same level through technology and making,” commented Coetzer
The winners of the eight Regional Awards will all compete in the finals of the competition in Johannesburg on 22 April 2015, where the overall winner of R50 000 will be announced.
Elaborating on the sustainability imperative van Niekerk went on to say that, in South Africa with the extreme temperatures, enhancing the thermal efficiency of buildings was a challenge to architects. “Clay brick comes to the fore meeting this challenge,” he said. “The natural thermal performance properties of clay brick are particularly relevant in the South African context with our hot summers and large diurnal temperature swings. The thermal lag effect in summer keeps rooms cooler while clay bricks capacity to slowly absorb store and release heat from internal walls further helps moderate internal temperatures in summer and to keep rooms warmer in winter, this contributing to quality living environments and reduced operational energy usage.
“Empirical and Modelling research studies undertaken locally and abroad using ASHRAE and Agrément SA Accredited modelling software have found that insulated double skin brick houses in compliance with SANS 204 Energy Standards (voluntary) for masonry buildings, supports superior thermal comfort and lower heating and energy usage in all of South Africa’s major climatic zones when compared with insulated lightweight building technologies such as Light Steel Frame Building.”
“Clay bricks credentials as a “green” building material, makes it ideal for architects pursuing thermally efficient sustainable construction in South African environments,” van Niekerk concluded.
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