Nelson Mandela University’s Riaan Huiskens wins this prestigious award.

The architects of the future will be the pathfinders who use the sophisticated technologies of the future to tackle the challenges of today while addressing both the learnings and the mistakes of the past, CEO of Corobrik, Mr Dirk Meyer, told key stakeholders in the world of academia, architecture and construction.

Speaking recently at the 32nd Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg, he said this applies to both this year’s winner – Riaan Huiskens from the Nelson Mandela University (NMU) – and the seven regional finalists whose work showcased the high calibre of young professionals that were entering this respected profession in South Africa.

During 2018, eight regional finalists from universities across the country were recognised and put forward to compete for a national title and a prize of R70 000 at the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards.

Huiskens’ thesis, entitled ‘The design of a 3D printing facility in Central Port Elizabeth’, explores how architecture is moving towards a paradigm shift with the development and incorporation of digital fabrication technology. This is extended into the discussion of recycling existing infrastructure and ties together both the heritage and ecological discourse and recognises the significance of historical urban elements and the finite quality of heritage resources within the city.

“A historical building used as a host for the design of a 3D printing facility invites a dialogue between the architecture of the old and the expression of the new. The Premier Mill Building is identified as a historical urban artefact and the programme complements the historical background of the building, which was a granary. The primary architectural exploration focuses on the possibilities offered by 3D printing in the making and expression of architecture. The nature of the facility organises function before sign meaning that the initial architecture lies in the systematic operations of the facility as a place of digital fabrication. Therefore, it focuses on successfully incorporating existing infrastructure as functioning components to the system. Secondly, the building is a sign of its function, a visual opportunity for a new architecture to reflect the nature of the facility,” he explains.

Andrew Palframan, head of the Department of Architecture at NMU, believes that this thesis addresses a very relevant topic as we head into the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“While increasingly mechanised and technologically advanced, the building process has essentially not changed for millennia. Riaan’s thesis creatively explores the potential for a fundamentally new way of making buildings, implementing cyber-physical systems that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. The project lends insight, not only into the systems and materials involved in this new way of making, but comments on how these might be implemented in the preservation of our built heritage.

He said that awards such as the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award brings the public’s attention to architecture in general. “This is particularly important since architecture and the issues involved in its making are not generally part of public discourse in this country. Furthermore, the award programme is aspirational, driving quality through competition, promoting the adoption of contemporary issues and values and setting a benchmark for standards of excellence in architecture.”

Meyer thanked this year’s judges which included Lauren Haiden from Paton Taylor architects in Durban; Rob Gillard from Intsika Architects in East London; and Luyanda Mphahlwa, president of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) and director of Design Space Africa; as well as guest speaker, Ilse Wolff from Wolff Architects in Cape Town, whose presentation Border Practice: Some attitudes towards architectural publications, exhibitions and design’ addresses the relationship between restorative justice, embedded research and juicy design aesthetics.

“The creative output from our studio considers the past in terms of how to act restoratively and imaginatively when making interventions into the present,” she noted.

Meyer also noted that Corobrik, too, believes in the fusion of past and present. One of the company’s most celebrated products – facebrick – demonstrates how sophisticated research and development can lead to the introduction of innovative new products born from technology dating back to 7 500 BCE.

Like their predecessors, the recently-launched new Corobrik black and white face bricks are durable, non-toxic, reusable, energy and thermally efficient and low maintenance. Manufactured using the latest technology in sophisticated eco-friendly gas fired kilns which minimise energy usage and emissions, they nevertheless catapulte a tried and tested building material from the realm of the conservative and historical into the new age of modern, dramatic architecture.