Guy Ailion of the University of Witwatersrand has scooped the prestigious Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award for 2009 with his entry entitled ‘Everywhere is here - Architecture and a Developing Information Society’ which is an Open Information Campus in Kliptown, Soweto, South Africa. The project is dedicated to developing an informal settlement’s community as active and participatory Generations Y,X, and Z in the information revolution.
Selected from a group of seven regional finalists Ailion’s win was announced at a function held at the Wanderer’s Club in Johannesburg on 10 March 2010. The judges selected his entry over the others’ because they felt it was a very thought provoking exercise in which he addressed the issues people face in an information era that surpasses cultural barriers. This project, set on a well-known site in Kliptown will assist local communities in learning to use information technology within a friendly and encouraging environment. The proposed structure encompasses various venues in which to learn new technology as well as housing a traditional plug-in library paying homage to the nostalgia of books. The building and its programmed spaces is designed in wake of a media revolution where todays generation have become both consumers and producers of digital content.The building’s flexible planning is split in half separating highly charged social spaces and activities where students and users engage in a remix culture of video editing, music making, recording booths, and mixing desks or retreat to quiet spaces to study, blog, watch educational Youtube videos, or listen to public lectures dedicated to open source programs and benefits. The building, as re-invented civic building in an informal settlement, hopes to promote sustainable entrepreneurship, self study, business, and cross-cultural expression out of Africa.
Corobrik managing director, Dirk Meyer, highlighted the organisation’s commitment to driving for sustainable outcomes in all aspects of the business and the role clay bricks play in optimising sustainability over the lifecycle of buildings. A prominent theme of the event was environmental consciousness and the relevance to taking holistic approaches to sustainability, incorporating economic, social and environmental aspects.
He said, “The Student Awards programme was important in that it extended the platform for intellectual discourse and debate on the sort of architecture and the kind of building technologies and materials appropriate for addressing the fragilities of the Earth. For devising from a myriad of design and material possibilities, those combinations are able to achieve optimal solutions, resulting in architecture that is able to inspire and is also functional, practical and sensible.”
Meyer quoted Renzo Piano who on the subject of sustainability said, ‘The challenge is to create buildings that are less violent in terms of their energy requirements and which are capable of achieving economies in the use of resources. Where possible we should seek to use materials that respect the environmental balance. One of these is ceramic. It is an ancient material that comes from the earth and returns to the earth but above all it has characteristics of strength, durability, unlimited colour potential and the capacity to reflect light, making it functionally perfect and extraordinary in various situations.’
He added, “To be sensible and sustainable tomorrow’s architecture has to have lowest impact on non-renewable resources and energy usage and he was pleased to note how extensive research and thermal modelling had demonstrated how double skin clay brick cavity walling with different levels of resistance outperformed other systems, optimising the thermal performance of buildings throughout South Africa”.
Similarly in his keynote speech entitled ‘Towards Real Green Architecture’, Eric Noir of WSP Green by Design, presented the why’s and how’s of green buildings from a practical point of view and used WSP Green by Design’s rich portfolio to explore overcoming resistance to change.
The context in which we have to envisage the built environment is that of six interrelated time bombs: energy, water, food security, people, biodiversity and waste.
Noir made the point that: “Sustainability in the built environment is within reach and the capacity of everybody. It is not about ability, but more importantly about willingness and overcoming resistance to change. It is about using exactly the same tools of ones trade, but to serve a different philosophy.”
This is the twenty-third year that Corobrik has sponsored the competition, which was initiated to promote quality design and to acknowledge talent among architectural students. Thesis students from Universities and qualifying Institutes of Technology throughout South Africa are invited to submit entries for one of the seven regional competitions, the winners of which compete in the final.
As it recognises the positive impact that young graduates have on the future of the built environment, the award is coveted among architectural students and is hotly contested each year. The quality and innovation of entries increase annually and this year was no exception.
The process of selecting the winner began on Monday, 8 March, when the students gathered at the Wanderer’s Club to erect scale models of their project. On Tuesday, 9 March, each finalist presented their thesis and discussed all aspects of it with a panel of four judges in an hour-long interview.
The judging panel comprised Henning Rasmuss from Paragon Architects, Gita Goven from ARG Design, Fanuel Motsepe - Motsepe Architects and Peter Kidger, of Corobrik.
The judges observed that each of the entries have great relevance for the current times and the standard remains high, which is most commendable.
Gita Goven, representing the panel of judges commented, “All finalists had well thought out projects ranging from the rejuvenation of an existing but now disused clothing factory, through to applications serving the basic needs of commuters, facilities for performing artists and the performing arts, an innovative and thought provoking promatorium and ecological funerary complex in central Port Elizabeth and an environmental research, information and support centre at Hartbeespoort Dam.”
In the judging process each candidate was assessed against five criteria to ensure that the winner had thoroughly researched their thesis, that it was technically sound and that it was sustainable in the long term both economically, socially, and environmentally.
After being presented with his award, Ailion expressed his appreciation on behalf of all finalists to the jurors and the sustainably conscious Corobrik for their continuous investment in the architectural community.
Ailion said, “I am appreciative of this prestigious award. This is additional recognition and the three days of the event has given me the opportunity to see the different styles and standard of education of all universities.”
Additional information about the winning entry:
EVERYWHERE IS HERE - Architecture and a Developing Information Society
Society is slowly moving through an Information Age that is being defined by a global shift towards a need for increased information. We are in an era of digital information, where the ability to access the world’s knowledge from anywhere and by anyone is a reality - but not yet accessible for communities on the other side of the digital divide. This presents a setback for both the sustainable and cultural growth of developing nations.
With technology becoming cheaper and faster this digital divide is more than a lack of hardware - it’s a cultural divide. Nurturing information societies in a developing context needs a bottom-up approach that applies to local cultures and methods of interaction in keeping with global trends of the Information Age.
Today, design is human centered, and although architecture has always imbued a relationship with technology, when designing architecture for developing an information society, an understanding of context and culture becomes paramount to achieving spaces that encourage participation, sustainability, and buildings that break the stigma of information technology. The first sustainable steps to embracing this new era of digital information is providing free access and awareness to the world’s knowledge and to incorporate interfaces and programmed spaces that relate to a specific culture’s needs and habits.
With a renewed approach involving participation, awareness, and immersive environments for both the production and consumption of digital knowledge the contemporary library and public space have the potential for narrowing the cultural divide. The new information platform replaces the traditional spaces of knowledge previously limited to the archetypal library - This is the Open Information Campus, Kliptown, Soweto, 2009.
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