From left: Mr Lwazi Ncanana, Mr Lawrence Ogunsanya, Mr Camrin Plaatjes and Mr Nhlanzeko Mbatha.

Architecture students Mr Lwazi Ncanana, Mr Nhlanzeko Mbatha and Mr Camrin Plaatjes were all Top Ten finalists in the prestigious PG Bison 1.618 competition. Plaatjes won third place and a R10 000 cash prize. All finalists also received a R2 000 cash prize.

Now in its 24th year, the competition recognises  future interior and industrial designers, architects and key decision makers in the South African construction industry. It has come to be known not only for the prestige it offers its winners, but also for the tradition-defying brief given to the participating students each year.

The competition, which culminates in a swanky annual awards ceremony, has established itself as an integral part of the syllabus at the majority of institutions across the country.

This year, the students were given the brief to transform an ailing building within one of Johannesburg’s key parks, into a vibrant gastronomic restaurant, with an appreciation and understanding of urban regeneration. The restaurant needed to create a unique and seamlessly linked indoor and outdoor experience for the patrons.

Plaatjes found the conceptual stage of the brief the most enjoyable. ‘Research of precedents exposed me to new theories and concepts other artists and architects had used in the past.’  Compassion, patience and humility are the qualities he believes are most important in his field.

Plaatjes decided he wanted to be an architect at the very early age of seven. He has moved from different houses and would often ‘re-do’ the house plans, displaying a keen eye for design.

‘Entering and winning third place in this competition validates my career choice. To know that prolific architects have recognised our work, has given us confidence to craft a successful career in this industry and to be an inspiration to others,’ he said.

Mbatha also had an interest in the built environment and all types of art, believing that architecture was the sensible thing to apply for. He is inspired by the works of Bjarke Ingels as ‘he has a thought-provoking and innovative approach to solving problems.’ He thanked his mother for always going out of her way to ensure that all of his needs are catered for.

Ncanana is inspired by the idea of working with others in ‘designing and erecting tangible structures that will shape our lives and cities, and help to revitalise and grow our communities.’ He thinks that the competition prizes are ‘absolutely amazing’ and provide students with a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Their lecturer and studio design co-ordinator, Mr Lawrence Ogunsanya said he was proud of his students and their achievements. ‘It is no easy feat to make the Top Ten of this competition. Their designs for the competition were strong and spoke to the calibre of work that UKZN does. The Architecture discipline has been dominating and winning major competitions for the past two years. We are confident and excited about our achievements so far but there’s still a lot of work to be done. We’re definitely doing something right.’

The students advised others to work hard, to develop a thick skin, to remain humble and be open to constructive criticism in relation to design work. They plan to pursue postgraduate studies in the future, to go into practice and be successful architects but at the same time, still compete in high profile industry competitions.

Words: Melissa Mungroo

Photograph:  Supplied by PG Bison