Change the world



This story appeared in the Herald e-edition on 1 February 2016.

FROM humble beginnings to standing a chance to win a coveted architectural award, a former Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) student is making waves in the world of architecture.

Growing up in the small town of Piketberg in the Western Cape, Leon van der Westhuizen, 24, was surrounded by great architectural designs such as the large Dutch Reformed church built in 1881 by Carl Otto Hager in his trademark neo-Gothic style.

“Since I was young, drawing and being creative was part of my daily routine,” Van der Westhuizen said.

Van der Westhuizen, who graduated from NMMU last year with a master’s degree in architecture, has been named the Eastern Cape Regional Architectural Corobrik Student of the Year finalist for the national competition for his design, which focuses on regenerating the derelict Boet Erasmus Stadium into a biological water treatment and research facility.

Top-performing master’s students from each university in South Africa which offers architecture are entered into the competition. The national winner will be announced in May.

“You basically decide on a topic which interests you in order to appropriately develop an architectural response to issues,” Van der Westhuizen explained.

He said it was an “absolutely amazing feeling to know that all the late nights and hard work paid off to achieve this award”.

He said awards such as these motivated architects to push themselves more and achieve greater heights.

“Winning would of course mean a lot to me, although I’m more looking forward to just meeting new people in the field and gaining experience out of the competition.”

Van der Westhuizen said if he should win the R50 000 cash prize he would travel to experience more architecture around the world.

His winning design looked at transforming the old Boet Erasmus stadium into a biological water treatment and research facility.

“The stadium is a hindrance to the ecosystems and the leisure activities in the valley. The proposed design visualises the stadium as a filter to clean water and restore the valley to an eco-sound state to promote leisure activities. The stadium becomes a micro-catchment area to remove heavy metals from the Shark River and the storm-water through using wetlands and water lilies.

“Clean water then runs through the valley and can be enjoyed by the public. The heavy metals are recovered through a research facility, where they are smelted into jewellery pieces.

“As the facility filters the water along the valley, it supports the reconstituted ‘people place’ of Happy Valley with natural swimming pools, walkways, cycling routes and a picnic area,” he said.

Contact information
Mrs Debbie Derry
Deputy Director: Communication
Tel: 041 504 3057