New and distinctive ideas, a high standard of technical skill, creative flair, a good grasp of sustainability issues and a clear understanding of the complex role of built structures within an evolving urban environment were just some of the reasons why Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny from the University of KwaZulu-Natal won first prize at the Corobrik Architectural Awards in Johannesburg this evening.
The competition, which has spanned three decades, has seen considerable changes in how young professionals in the architectural professional approach the built environment. Today, technological advances and sustainability imperatives are driving creativity.
Innovation with a view to lightening the built environment’s environmental footprint together with an innate understanding of social and cultural imperatives within South Africa are just some of the reasons that this year’s judges singled out De Marigny’s dissertation.
After presenting De Marigny with a cheque for R50 000, Corobrik managing director, Dirk Meyer, thanked this year’s judges for their invaluable in put – Andre Eksteen, multi-award winning co-director at Earthworld Architects & Interiors, Tunde Oluwa, sustainable development guru and founder of Odyssey Architects S.A and Tanzeem Razak, who is passionate for spatial transformation in South African cities and director and founding partner of Lemon Pebble Architects in Johannesburg.
De Marigny was one of eight regional winners from the country’s major universities who were chosen during 2016. Each winner became a finalist who competed for the national title.
Design for [bio] diversity
His thesis, entitled ‘Design for [bio] diversity’, explored the potential of architecture for ecological conservation, proposing an environmental awareness and water research facility in the context of Springfield industrial park/ uMgeni River catchment area in Durban.
Research revealed that human existence relies heavily on bio diverse ecosystems to survive, however as population increases, urbanisation and industrialisation occurs, resulting in natural areas often being exploited and degraded, most critically affecting the earth's fresh water systems.
De Marigny’s proposed architectural solution aimed to draw an analogy between the machine-dominated environment of the Springfield industrial park and the natural ecosystems found within the uMgeni river. This was achieved through the concept of viewing architecture as similar to that of a mechanical prosthetic device, so that the architecture (industrial machine) could begin to act as rather a natural life support system in the context in which it exists (ecology).
Attaching to an existing 440m long pedestrian walkway bridge spanning the width of the river the facility hosts minimal ecological footprint, in addition to providing direct access to the water body to ecologically filter both surface (plastics, rubbers, geo-polymers) and subsurface (human, industrial, agricultural) water pollutants that are accumulated as the watercourse passes through habited areas before reaching Durban’s coastline.
Architecture as a positive hybrid energy contributor
As a result, both the technological and ecological solutions used allowed the architecture to act as a positive hybrid energy contributor, provide space for rehabilitation processes and is able to consistently produce and provide the public, tourists and researchers with fresh fish, vegetables, plants, seeds, flowers, biogas, fertilisers and clean water, who then have the option to relax and enjoy an organic meal, while overlooking the river, or take part in the various educational, ecotourism and research programs facilitated on site.
Supervisor and lecturer, Bridget Horner, said that the highlight of the winning thesis was the location of the site and its potential vista toward to sea and into Durban.
“The project impressively straddles one of Durban’s most beautiful rivers, the uMgeni River, as well as the existing pedestrian bridge. The architecture is a machine that filters dirt from the river and draws water up into its water purification plant – filtering water so that, in the process of moving over the infrastructure, the purification of water as a process is visible to the pedestrian,” she explained.
She noted that the project drew its architectural language from the cranes and containers that occupied the Durban harbour. This was in keeping with the architecture’s role as a mechanised prosthetic device supporting the river in flushing out its impurities before they meet the sea.
A stellar lineup of finalists
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. All the winners have shown a close affinity with their subjects and their designs both enhanced and integrated with the communities in which they were sited.
Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth: Mario van Wyk
- Thesis title: ‘Horror in Architecture’, a romantic exploration of the exquisite corpse analogy.
Tshwane University of Technology: Kim Geldenhuys
- Thesis Title: A community food production facility in Alexandra, Gauteng
University of Cape Town: Kenneth Main.
- Thesis title: Urban Acupuncture: Architecture as a catalyst for environmental and water conservation in the context of the Kilimanjaro Informal Settlement.
University of Johannesburg: Darren Sampson
- Thesis title: ‘The Light House’.
University of Pretoria: Yvonne Bruinette
- Thesis title: ‘The Heritage Portal: An Experiential Narrative’ based at Westfort in Pretoria.
University of the Free State: Lana Bramley
- Thesis title: Art Gallery Questioning topographic and institutional edges by sculpting inhabitable thresholds.
University of Witwatersrand: Katherine Dewar
- Thesis title: Hyper-embodiment, A jewellery creation hub + community for women