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Student Wins First Prize in Corobrik Architectural Awards

25 May, 2017

UKZN Architecture student Mr Jean-Pierre Desvaux de Marigny has won the R50 000 first prize in the Corobrik Architectural Awards competition.

Mr Jean-Pierre Desvaux De Marigny - Corobrik Architect Student of the Year.

UKZN Architecture student Mr Jean-Pierre Desvaux de Marigny has won the R50 000 first prize in the Corobrik Architectural Awards competition.

De Marigny, who described winning as ‘a great feeling’, says he is delighted his work was recognised and achieved first place.

‘It was truly an amazing experience and I feel honoured to have brought home this national award, especially after UKZN hasn’t won it for 22 years! Having the status of the best architectural student in South Africa is by far the most prestigious accolade to receive at masters level and I am proud of the achievement on my journey towards becoming an architect,’ he said.

The Corobrik competition, held annually for the past three decades, has seen considerable changes in how young professionals in the architectural profession approach the built environment.

De Marigny was awarded the prize for his innovation with a view to lightening the built environment’s environmental footprint together with an innate understanding of social and cultural imperatives within South Africa.

He was one of eight regional winners from the country’s major universities who were chosen last year. Each winner became a finalist competing for the national title announced at a recent function in Johannesburg.  

His award-winning research and proposed intervention focused on the lower uMgeni River, viewing it as one of Durban’s major life sources, currently in desperate need of ecological support as it runs past many communities lacking clean water and unable to use the watercourse because it is so heavily polluted.

De Marigny believes the unhealthy state of the river is causing knock on effects such as lack of nutrition and food, increasing mortality of aquatic species and birds as well as a lack of tourism and investment interest in the watercourse areas.

As a result, his research proposed an architectural solution located downstream of the Springfield Industrial Park area that aimed to draw an analogy between the machine-dominated environment that exists and the natural ecosystems found within the uMgeni river.

Conceptually the design took the stance of ‘viewing architecture as similar to that of a mechanical prosthetic device, so that the architecture (industrial machine) could begin to act as rather a natural life support system in the context in which it exists (ecology)’, evolving into a multi-programmed hydrological awareness and water research facility that straddles the affected watercourse.

Attaching to an existing 440m long pedestrian walkway bridge spanning the width of the river, the facility hosts  a minimal ecological footprint, in addition to providing direct access to the water body to ecologically filter both surface (plastic, rubber and geo-polymers matter) as well as subsurface (human, industrial and agricultural matter ) water pollutants as they pass below.

According to De Marigny, this is achieved through using both applied technological solutions as well as integrated ecological living processes that take advantage of renewable energies for power as well as supporting indigenous aquarian species, able to purify water that is clean enough for consumption and rehabilitative purposes.

 ‘Overall the architecture aims to exist as merely a self-sustainable framework that actively expresses how the built environment is able to support the natural in a rather systematic and cyclical manner.

‘It further seeks to transform the idea of “waste” (physical and metaphysical) into “nutrients” for regenerative growth, as in addition to enabling a space for continued water research, the facility is able to provide fresh fish, fertilisers, biogas, plants, vegetables and clean water, all of which are by-products of so called “waste”.’

De Marigny’s advice to other architecture students is to be passionate about whatever they are doing. ‘In architecture the journey one has to endure to get to where you want to be is not easy. Always trust the path that leads you, work hard at it and you are bound to succeed.’ 

Melissa Mungroo

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