Corobrik’s ongoing investment in new production facilities, new technologies, new products and the architects of the future have combined to open a whole world of new possibilities in brick architecture.
The 32nd Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award, which will be announced in Johannesburg on the 8th May 2019, is one such commitment to innovation and the future of South Africa’s built environment.
Anthony Whitaker from the University of Cape Town is this year’s regional winner. In addition to his prize of R10 000, he will go on to compete against seven other talents from tertiary institutions countrywide for the national award to take place in Johannesburg on the 8th May 2019.
Daniel Xu was placed second, with Ramon Bischof in third place and Alexandra Singer receiving an award for the best use of clay masonry.
Whitaker’s thesis is entitled ‘Builders, Agriculturalists, and Interpreters — architecture by Narration. The project is based on fieldwork research and observations of social practices in Gugulethu, Cape Town. Three architectural approaches make up the project – a building system (Part1: Proto-town), that system as building (Part 2: Proto-type), and that building system as urban model (Part 3: Proto-town).
The first considers buildability and materiality. A proposal for a replicable building system found and resolved in the practice of autonomous building, characteristic of under-resourced and marginalized neighbourhoods in South African cities. It is a building system that aims to simplify the planning and building process of construction, enabling non-experts to build and influence the design process. Using basic products of industry and skills that are commonly known and understood, it responds to the people who build them and can be altered.
The Proto-Type – small timber structure hosted to a 6m ISO shipping container will give space to store equipment. The adjacent meeting space opens towards the crops and will be used for recreational activities and educational workshops. The third begins to project new possibilities informed by the previous two parts. The defunct King David Country Club, North of Gugulethu, is appropriated and imagined as a Proto-Town. The communal hall is the largest and most prominent structure of all in the Proto-town. Its construction involves the most elaborate technologies of all structures. The hall is conceived as being built first, it will accommodate a range of programmes in a sequence of phases. Once construction of the town progresses the demand for the workshops will be reduced to the necessary maintenance workshops.
Xu’s thesis is entitled Resilient Arcadia – The Machine in the Garden: a visceral reflection on our tenuous relationship with nature. It is the result of an interest in an architecture of inflection and dialogue: an architecture formed of landscape and a landscape formed of architecture. It explores our transient relationship with nature, its resources and technology to create a symbiotic future. Historic water tunnels underneath the Cape Town City Bowl are used to augment resource scarcity and form systemic markers of the subterranean through the continuous viral spread of decentralized distribution of infrastructure in urban spaces.
Ramon Bischof’s thesis is entitled ‘Re-imagining an underused mono-functional office tower in the Cape Town CBD’: The case of Mobil House. His dissertation engages adaptive reuse as a potential approach in the transformation of under-performing and publicly isolated buildings. The site selected is the underutilized 1970 Mobil House office tower. The building’s existing infrastructure and structural type are the driving factors for architectural opportunity. The approach is to value characteristics of robustness, flexibility and high-embodied energy as an ideal platform for programmatic diversity.
For her award for the best use of clay brick Alexandra Singer’s thesis is FEED | FEEL Architecture, Food, Phenomenology and Landscape: cultivating a culinary experience on Kloof Street. This dissertation proposed the poetic creation of place through the embodied crafting of architectural space. The building is embedded into the landscape and takes the form of an immersive culinary experience, creating a journey through a series of pod-like vessels. It redefines the archetypal notion of a restaurant, elevating it to a community food hub in the form of a sensory village of smells, sounds, sights and feelings. Singer says she was inspired childhood memories of foraging in the mountains, the project seeks to create an immersive culinary experience on Kloof Street.
The transformation of clay into bricks through firing can be likened to the transformation of wheat into bread through baking; creating an analogous relationship between architecture and food. Natural materials convey the story of their origin, revealing signs of aging through the passage of time, thereby connecting us to the place from which they come. The tactile nature of a brick is understood by the body through sensory perception, with the size of a brick made to fit in the palm of one’s hand. A brick reveals the limits of its structural capacity, acting only in compression. Therefore, to achieve the sloped angle of the walls in the pods, the bricks have to rest one upon the other at a maximum angle of 63 degrees to counteract the bending moments.
Congratulating the winner, Allin Dangers, Corobrik Director of Sales pointed out that Corobrik, which has been part of the economic and construction landscape of South Africa for more than 115 years, was investing in significantly boosting local production capacity. It currently produces a billion bricks per year and sells about four million bricks per working day.
He said, “I have been involved with this event for many years and it is refreshing to see elements of face brick being incorporated into designs for the first time in many years.
A R800 million mega factory that will be built alongside its existing Driefontein factory in Gauteng, the largest project of its kind underway worldwide at present, will be the biggest and most environmentally friendly in Africa.
This will be followed by another mega factory on the East Rand, the building of a new sustainable and environmentally friendly concrete factory in KwaZulu-Natal and expansion in the Western Cape within the next five to six years.
“As a leading manufacturer of clay brick and related products, Corobrik is firmly committed to innovation and excited about being at the forefront of change. These new facilities will create much needed jobs and signify a vote of confidence in the future of our country,” Dangers said.
He added that supporting both newcomers and existing member of the architectural profession was an extension of this commitment.
As a result, Corobrik has embraced new technology and is developing new products that will shape the future built environment in South Africa.
It recently commissioned the latest (Building Information Modelling) BIM files which can now be downloaded from its website by architects and other property development professionals.
“Today’s young professionals are looking to rapid and meaningful solutions backed by superior technology and connectivity. BIM represents a new way of working based on a far broader and shared intelligent technological platform that is compatible with all architectural software,” Dangers said.
Research and development has also led to the launch of innovative new products such as Corobrik’s new Black Brick. The new face bricks being manufactured in grey and black tones with the latest colour trends being imported.
“This takes facebrick into the new age of modern, dramatic architecture. When combined with other textures and colours or even used alone, these exciting new products together with the use of new mortars, different bonds and contrasting patterns has helped create a powerful contemporary signature,” he concluded.