South Africa’s Architectural Student of the Year


Breaking boundaries to adapt exsiting structures and employ advanced technological tools.

A student from Nelson Mandela University, Riaan Huiskens took home first place at the prestigious 32nd Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award held earlier this year, recognised for his innovative thesis.  

Hosted at the Maslow Hotel in Sandton, Johannesburg Huiskens went head to head against eight regional finalists from universities across the country, for a grand prize of R70 000.  

CEO of Corobrik, Dirk Meyer commented on this years’ winner as he addressed key stakeholders in the world of academia, architecture and construction. 

“The architects of the future will be the pathfinders who use the sophisticated technologies of the future to tackle the challenges of today whilst addressing both the learnings and the mistakes of the past,” he said.

Huiskens thesis, titled “The design of a 3D printing facility in Central Port Elizabeth further analyses and explore the use and incorporation of digital fabrication technology in architecture and how there is a movement towards employing these techniques. As a fifth-year student, Husikens thesis aims to address potential future issues that may arise within construction and ad 

 In an official statement by Corobrik explains the importance on understanding the role that digital fabrication technology plays in maintaining the heritage of existing structures.  

 “This is extended into the discussion of recycling existing infrastructure and ties together both the heritage and ecological discourse and recognises the significance of historical urban elements and the finite quality of heritage resources within the city.”  

Meyers goes on to explain Huisken’s thesis and the role that 3D printing can play in construction and the adaptation of existing buildings.   

A historical building used as a host for the design of a 3D printing facility invites a dialogue between the architecture of the old and the expression of the new. The Premier Mill Building is identified as a historical urban artefact and the programme complements the historical background of the building, which was a granary. The primary architectural exploration focuses on the possibilities offered by 3D printing in the making and expression of architecture. The nature of the facility organises function before sign. Meaning the initial architecture lies in the systematic operations of the facility as a place of digital fabrication. Therefore, it focuses on successfully incorporating existing infrastructure as functioning components to the system. Secondly, the building is a sign of its function, a visual opportunity for a new architecture to reflect the nature of the facility,” he said. 

Head of the Department of Architecture at Nelson Mandela University, Andrew Palframan, explains that Huisken’s thesis explores developments in construction and design, ushering towards the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.  

 While increasingly mechanised and technologically advanced, the building process has essentially not changed for millennia. Riaan’s thesis creatively explores the potential for a fundamentally new way of making buildings, implementing cyber-physical systems that blur the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres. The project lends insight not only into the systems and materials involved in this new way of making but comments on how these might be implemented in the preservation of our built heritage. 

Commenting on the importance of the architectural awards, Palframan says that it drives future architects to think outside of the box.  

This is particularly important since architecture and the issues involved in its making are not generally part of public discourse in this country.   Furthermore, the award programme is aspirational, driving quality through competition, promoting the adoption of contemporary issues and values and setting a benchmark for standards of excellence in architecture,” he said.  

 The panel of judges for the 2019 awards included renowned architects, including Lauren Haiden from Paton Taylor Architects, Rob Gillard from Intsika Architects in East London along with Luyanda Mphahlwa, President of the South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) and director of design space.  

Corobrik aims to create materials that merge the future and the past – with its renowned creation of the ‘face-brick’ which was created with technology dating back to 7 500 BC. With the recently launched black and white face bricks created by Corobrik, a new ‘era of materials’ is awakening. These facebricks, compared to their predecessors are manufacture using the latest technology in eoc-friendly gas fired kilns which decrease the energy usage and emissions made during production. Corobrik has developed an old-but-loved into a new and modern building material.  

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