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Corobrik-SAIA Awards celebrate architectural excellence

The cream of South Africa’s architectural talent was acknowledged for their talent and skill at the 2013/14 Corobrik-SAIA Awards of Excellence and Merit at a gala dinner at the ICC Durban on 1 August.

Presented by Corobrik and the South African Institute for Architects (SAIA), the awards represent the highest accolade that can be awarded to a building in the country.

“It is heart-warming to note that the majority of the projects submitted by our members were of an exceptionally high standard,” said SAIA president, Sindile Ngonyama. “Several office-bearers from the International Union of Architects, who are currently in Durban for their world congress, attended our awards evening and it was apparent that they supported the adjudicating panel’s view that the winning projects were on a par with outstanding architectural design globally.”

The competition is open to SAIA members nationally who enter their best work. The Corobrik-SAIA Award for Excellence, the highest tribute, recognises exceptional contributions to the field of architecture. They have been presented every two years since their introduction in 1990. The Awards of Merit, introduced in 1999, acknowledge good design or a significant architectural achievement. The awards cycle begins with Awards for Architecture presented by SAIA regional institutes in the first year, followed by the Corobrik-SAIA Awards of Merit and Excellence the second year.

Eight Awards of Excellence, 14 Awards of Merit and two Special Commendations were bestowed on the architects responsible for 24 projects selected from 49 entries from eight SAIA regions. The winning projects ranged from residential units and public buildings to the restoration of heritage sites and an academic research project.

“This year’s successful submissions talked not only to materiality, programmatic requirements, the employment of resources and the application of socio-cultural debates, but also engaged and articulated the day-to-day intellectual and topical discourse of our ever-changing biophysical environment,” Ngonyama said.

The two projects which received special commendations were deemed to have not quite met the set criteria, but had demonstrated certain qualities that were worthy of ongoing architectural debate as the profession moves forward.

The adjudicating panel convened for an intense two-day judging session, then visited 25 shortlisted projects in person before finalising their assessments. Headed by Ngonyama, founding director of Ngonyama Okpanum and Associates in East London, the panel included Peter Kidger of Corobrik in Durban, Malcolm Campbell ACG Architects & Development Planners in Cape Town, Prof Paul Kotze of Wits University and Annemarie Meintjes, deputy editor of VISI magazine in Johannesburg.

“The decision to visit the shortlisted projects gave the adjudicators the opportunity to engage seriously as individuals with different outlooks on architectural trajectory and background, and also with the projects and their authors,” Ngonyama said. “This was an enriching element of the process this year.”

Ngonyama acknowledged the valued support of Corobrik, South Africa’s leading brick manufacturers, who have sponsored the prestigious awards programme since its inception.

Peter Kidger of Corobrik said, “We are delighted, as a patron of architecture and sponsor of the awards programme to honour these fine examples of great, recent architecture in this country.”

“South Africa presents architects with exciting challenges by virtue of its varying typography and climate, often limited budgets and an evolving multicultural society where public architecture is required to be engaging, transformative and inclusive,” he said.

“Architects are also faced with the significant design and specification considerations surrounding climate change, ensuring that we use non-renewable resources more effectively and tread with greater circumspection on our planet.”

“Each of the winning projects has successfully addressed these challenges,” Kidger said. “They have presented an architecture founded on sound programmes, in context, demonstrating resource efficiency that extends into the future and using materials that are innovative and appropriate.”

“Corobrik salutes the architects whose work has been acclaimed this year, not only for the architectural merit of their buildings, but for conceiving architecture with the propensity to delight.”

The awards dinner was attended by 220 people including dignitaries from the Department of Public Works (DPW), eThekwini Municipality and other government departments within the built environment; executives from related voluntary associations; the registrar of the SA Council for the Architectural Profession (SACAP); board members, regional secretaries and members of SAIA; Corobrik executives; UIA office-bearers; members of the media; and heads of schools of architecture nationally.