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Reasons to be Proud - #R2bP: Nelson Mandela University students were the big winners at the recent Corobrik Student Architecture Awards.

GP Greyvenstein and Blake Smit bagged R70 000 each for their projects. Greyvenstein (2019) won for his thesis entitled 'The Design of a Merino Wool Processing Facility in Barkly East, Eastern Cape’, while Blake sought to create ‘a dignified place for waste pickers to recycle waste within the harsh landscape of the Arlington landfill in Port Elizabeth’.


The 2019 annual Corobrik Student Architecture Awards ceremony was postponed last year due to Covid and was combined with the 2020 event. The students presented their projects to the panel of judges last month.

GP and Blake’s wins make it the third year in a row that a student from Mandela University has won this prestigeous award, with Riaan Huiskins having won it in 2018. This is the first time in the competition’s 33 year history that a student from the same institution has won the award three years in a row.

Corobrik’s competition gives up-and-coming architecture students a platform to showcase their architectural talent and creativity. The Awards started in 1986 and is the only competition of its kind for masters architectural students in South Africa.

At the end of each academic year, the eight major South African universities each choose their best architectural master’s student who are announced as the Corobrik Regional Architectural Student of the year for each region. These regional finalists then compete at the National level early the following year- given the opportunity to present their theses to a panel of experienced professional Architects at the National Competition. 

The national winner receives R70 000 prize money along with the accolade of being announced the Corobrik Architecture Student of the Year. 

The 2019 winner, GP Greyvenstein from Barkly East in the Eastern Cape, describes his winning design. “My thesis focuses on a sustainable factory as a rural regenerative system. The subject was sparked by the concerning state of the rural Eastern Cape, where high-impact programmes are needed to boost agrarian reform to revive dying small towns. The project revisits the typical exclusive factory type to create an inclusive space where the community is involved and celebrated.

The building is constructed using materials of the region, local clay bricks and a lanolin-treated timber structure, methods familiar to local craftsman and builders. The building takes inspiration from the cultural, immediate township scale and mountainous context to generate a unique architecture responding to the harsh climate of the highlands of South Africa.”

Blake, who hales from Durban, focused his project on waste pickers, a group of individuals largely unacknowledged within the circular waste economy. This resulted in the 2020 winner creating a dignified place for these individuals to recycle waste within the harsh landscape of the Arlington landfill in Port Elizabeth. It incorporated waste building material and building rubble in the form of reclaimed brick and clay products, which were used in unique ways within the design process.

“Architecture and design have been my passion from a young age. However, the specific choice to study architecture came from an interest in understanding space and the impact that a physical place has on people. Architecture has the ability to mend issues that we have faced, are facing and more importantly are still going to face. It is an amazing subject that is able to speak to many other disciplines, subsequently making it a limitless conversation,” comments Blake.

Andrew Palframan, Head of the Architecture Department at Mandela University and lecturer of the two recent winners, won this competition in 1996.

Watch: SABC interview with the two winners   

An illustration of Blake Smit's project

An illustration of GP's project


Contact information
Mr Andrew Palframan
HOD ; Senior Lecturer
Tel: 27 41 5042719