Corobrik excellence awards in architecture

Eight South African projects have been chosen from the 55 put forward into the 2011/12 Corobrik-South African Institute of Architecture (SAIA) Awards of Merit and Awards for Excellence. The projects were singled out at a ceremony held on September 14 as part of the SAIA AZA Biennial convention in Cape Town.

The Awards programme is structured over a period of two years, and conducted in three stages. In the first year Awards for Architecture are presented by the various Regional Institutes affiliated to SAIA. The Corobrik-SAIA Awards of Merit are bestowed in the second year and thereafter, the Awards for Excellence are announced.

Projects that have received an Award of Merit are eligible for this award. The panel of adjudicators for the 2011/12 Awards was convened by the President of the Institute, Fanuel Motsepe, and consisted of Peter Kidger from Corobrik and an academic architect, Philippa Tumubweinee and fashion designer David Tlale.

“Good architects have the sensibility to design spaces that advance lifestyles, while being sensitive to the environment and mindful of promoting healthy social values,” says Motsepe. He believes that architecture in South Africa is cementing its confidence as a global role player and our architecture has clearly matured, confidently and convincingly in good posture, out of the provincial years of isolation.

Here follows the description of the eight 2011/2012 winners.

Untamed (CIA)

Untamed is the result of a collaborative process between a sculptor, writer and an architect. Dylan Lewis, the sculptor, had a strong intuitive idea about the subject Ian McCallum, the writer, discusses in his book, ‘Ecological Intelligence’. He researched environmentally conscious architects who had collaborated with artists and approached Enrico Daffonchio. Conceptual and briefing workshops explored the internal psychological conflict between our rational mind and our repressed wildness. This theme was expressed in the building by the contrast between the “living wall” and the rusted metal wall.

The judges say: Architecture, sculpture and philosophy are brought together in a seamless gesture of fusional arts, crafts, science and literature. It is a temporary structure whose spatial experience, through a considered imagination, brings about meditation on the philosophical text and sculptures housed within the folly: transcending the perceived experience of gallery. The museum feeling makes one think how relevant the real issue of environmental sustainability is, particularly the issues of indigenous flora and fauna, the importance of using recycling and recycled materials and combining vegetation with recycled materials.

Voelklip (CIA)

The brief to SAOTA – Stefan Antoni Olmesdahl Truen Architects called for a beach house suitable for a family of four, on a vacant site in Voelklip, Hermanus. The gently sloping site presented the opportunity for a split-level living space allowing lounge and dining to be placed above the bedrooms on the ground level, all enjoying dramatic sea views. The double volume family room and kitchen form the heart of the home and form the connection between the sea facing accommodation and the internal sunny terraces, pool and garden. The main garden courtyard functions as a large wind free and sunny outdoor entertainment environment.

The judges say: This holiday home is an architectural marvel in the design ingenuity applied – it befits the idiom ‘god is in the detail’ by the assemblage sensitivity and crisp clarity of construction that is carried throughout the entire structure. Apart from the sheer quality of the spaces and how they interrelate, one of the most successful aspects of this building is how it to relates to the outside – there is always a relationship to the outdoors, no matter where you are in the home. You are enclosed, but you aren’t closed in.

 New Residence in Groenkloof for Louw/Delport (PIA)

This house by Mellet and Human Architects is like a high level penthouse absorbing the unobstructed views of Pretoria from a small, steep, subdivided stand bordering a green belt. The site was terraced to provide a single level layout. The linear plan provides all living areas and bedrooms north of a gallery which doubles as circulation space and space to house an extensive art collection. Room for exhibiting art in the form of pictures and sculptures was a requirement from the client.

The judges say: This dwelling conceptually is a gallery that exhibits art and sculpture, while presenting itself as a platform from which the canvass that is Tshwane is experienced. This makes the house a dwelling that evokes a sense of place that is defined with the sky, linked to the earth through the well proportioned indoor spaces. The finishes add to the experience that the home is special. When you are indoors you can feel the outdoors. As you enter the front door you are drawn in and through the building – the journey is thought through for you. As you move through the building it is interconnected aesthetically. When you leave, you feel your time has been satisfying.

The South African Institute of Architects Award for Excellence was introduced in 1990, and is conferred every second year where it recognises an exceptional contribution to the field of architecture. The award programme was revised in 1999, and now includes the Awards of Merit running concurrently.

The Concierge Boutique Hotel and Freedom Café (KZNIA)

Tucked behind the gritty commercial zone of Umgeni Road in Durban, lie a series of Victorian workers’ cottages from the late 1800s. When the client acquired four of these semi-detached units, the brief for Architecture Fabrik and Don Albert & Partners was to create a boutique hotel with adjoining studios for creative professionals. The new structure is not physically connected to the historic buildings and is set back from the street which enables a visitor to easily distinguish both the reception, and the ‘new from the old’, whilst retaining the character of the street and area.

The judges say: The project presents itself as a direct response to the urban context through the perforation of the façade creating a connection that allows for passive surveillance and perceived safety. The space generated through this interpretation of refurbishment, combined with flawless construction, makes this development a spectacle, to be experienced and enjoyed. The central internal courtyard comprising the restaurant facility for the Bed & Breakfast contrasts with the heritage element of the hotel, using the rough industrial containers. The bright colours also draw the eye into this area.

 

Circa on Jellicoe (GIFA)

When viewed together with the existing Everard Read gallery, Circa on Jellicoe by StudioMAS Architects and Urban Designers is evidently more than just an art space; it aims to provide multi-functional semi-public space that alters perspectives of everyday life in the city. Primarily its form aims to intrigue people through a process of discovery, drawing them into this flexible space that caters for large meeting places for public events or smaller private functions. The architecture is a sculpture, moulding itself around its contents.

The judges say: Circa gallery is an urban sculpture that re-defines the definition of public space and public building in Johannesburg. It introduces a new typology of iconic architecture with its form, and as an object standing proud off the intersection of Jellicoe and Jan Smuts streets. The architecture is so different to what is around that it is really engaging – you want to go in to find out more about the building. As a gallery it fulfils this function of enquiry, yet with an open space for hire at its top, it offers people the scope to appreciate beyond just its ability to be a gallery.

 University of the Western Cape Life Sciences (CIA)

The new Life Sciences Department is aimed to place the University Western Cape on the world map as a centre of teaching excellence. It fuses six departments into one development to promote interdepartmental and trans-disciplinary research. The two major components – laboratory and learning centre – are joined by a social nucleus comprised of the lobby and gathering space oversailed by a shading canopy, supported by tree-like columns. The learning centre integrates the development into the broader campus and houses a state-of-the-art lecture theatre, computer lab-resource centre, seminar and tutorial rooms and a cafeteria opening onto the gathering space.

The judges say: The UWC Life Sciences building successfully showcases a commitment to sustainable building practice and resource efficiency in the way that it responds to the environment and demonstrates cost effective strategies, placing this building at the forefront of responsible architecture in the country. The architecture is enormously progressive in both what it intended to achieve and how it achieved it. It will set the benchmark for how institutional buildings will be scoped in future. The depth of detail of the blinds to shade the sun and the vegetable garden on the roof is a serious attempt to tread softly to create architecture with a low impact in spaces that are inspiring and in context with the forward/progressive nature of the institution.

Investec Regional Head Office (KZNIA)

Investec initiated a move from their offices in Durban’s CBD to an office park in Umhlanga in 2006. The brief to Elphick Proome Architects was to provide premium grade offices in Ridgeside Office Park with a sophisticated expression capturing an established corporate image and rendered in high quality materials. The spectacular ocean and distant cityscape views informed the arrangement of the office space around public interface and service spaces. The driving factor that tied the design together was the desire to keep it simple and create an uncluttered refined elegance.

The judges say: The building captures the essence of the Investec persona as an investment bank; the building being of exceptional quality in terms of finishes, but with a design that presents the informality of the office space to encourage interaction, sharing of ideas and team function in pursuit of client’s investment objectives. The internal spaces are engaging, both for the people who work there and outsiders visiting. The very high quality is evident without opulence. It is a building that projects the performance that the bank would expect of its employees.

Ubuntu Centre (ECIA)

This project, designed by Field Architecture in association with John Blair Architects and Ngonyama Okpanum Hewitt-Coleman, was commissioned by the Ubuntu Education Fund to provide a centre of operations for its health and educational outreach programmes serving the township of Zwide. It houses a wellness wing with a clinic specialising in HIV and tuberculosis prevention and counselling as well as an education wing for group study, remedial classes and career guidance. At the heart of the building, running through two floors, is a multi-purpose space for after-school educational programmes, community theatre, or for workshops.

The judges say: The building makes a permanent statement of architectural excellence in that it contrasts with historical design approaches within a ‘township’ environment, making this centre a culturally receptive iconic building with which the community can associate as well as derive a sense of dignity and pride. The use of the typical South African materials of concrete, wood and slate, and how they have been combined, presents a quality and enduring finish, which is perfect for the context of the building and its uses.

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