A project focused on waste pickers, a group of individuals largely unacknowledged within the circular waste economy, was declared a regional winner of the 34th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards from the School of Architecture at Nelson Mandela University in a virtual ceremony on 11 December 2020.
The project looked at creating a dignified place for these individuals to recycle the waste within the harsh landscape of the Arlington landfill in Port Elizabeth, explains winning student Blake Smit. It incorporated waste building material and building rubble in the form of reclaimed brick and clay products, which were used in unique ways within the design process.
“Architecture and design have been my passion from a young age. However, the specific choice to study architecture came from an interest in understanding space and the impact that a physical place has on people. Architecture has the ability to mend issues that we have faced, are facing and more importantly are still going to face. It is an amazing subject that is able to speak to many other disciplines, subsequently making it a limitless conversation,” comments Blake.
Billed as one of the most prestigious awards programmes of its kind in South Africa, the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards selects regional winners from eight major universities, based on the students’ final theses. These regional winners then go through to the national round, where the top title is awarded, in addition to a R70 000 grand prize.
“The interest shown by companies like Corobrik in an academic environment sets a particular standard. This interest gives an extra dynamic to a fifth-year academic mindset, and at the same time creates a feeling of outside interest and acknowledgement from a place beyond the academic realm. I would like to thank Corobrik for its ongoing support,” says Blake.
“It is firstly a huge privilege to be part of something like this and to be among the few that have achieved this great milestone. I am truly grateful and feel a great sense of excitement for what lies ahead. Competing in the finals is a bonus, and to be one of the winners is surreal. Being presented the opportunity to take the next step into a national level is the best possible end result,” notes Blake.
He cites his parents as standout role models. “Without my family, none of what I have achieved would have been possible. My family have supported me from the beginning, making the end result of my fifth year remarkably special. Furthermore, the invaluable influence of my classmates has somewhat shaped me as an individual, for which I will always be thankful.”
Blake’s dream for the future is “to meet passionate people and be part of great ideas and to make a positive impact through whatever opportunity is presented to me. Knowing that architecture has the ability to involve people that come from various backgrounds and cultures, I hope to someday create that very opportunity for my local community. I hope to involve different people and their respective disciplines in the making of architecture and open the process up to more than just the individual with an architecturally-trained eye.”
Corobrik has long played a pivotal role in recognising up-and-coming young architects in South Africa, notes Marketing Support Manager Thilo Sidambaram, who herself has been involved with the awards for two decades. The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that all regional and national events have had to be held remotely. “Despite the challenges posed, the country’s architectural students have still managed to excel, and Corobrik is proud to continue to support our universities during this difficult period.”
34th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards: NMU
Winner Blake Smit R10 000
2nd Prize Joslin Nel R8 000
Joint 3rd Prize Daniella Patsalos R6 000
Joint 3rd Prize Marinda Holdstock R6 000
(+ Best Use of Clay Masonry)
Look out for the National Corobrik Student of the Year Awards ceremony that will take place virtually in May.