The competition was created by Women’s Property Network (WPN) in collaboration with eThekwini Municipality, the Department of Education, the South African Institute of Black Property Practitioners and the South African Property Owners Association.
The competition was for UKZN senior architectural students to ascertain who could provide a solution to inner-city regeneration and how best to include a school in the inner-city environment.
The competition tasked students to design an urban multi-storey primary and secondary school in the inner-city area of Albert Park for 1 500 learners, from Grade R to Grade 12.
Their designs featured exciting, functional, stimulating and a modern educational environment for learners and staff while incorporating natural existing features, vegetation and topography into the site.
The students also created a school hall and a café to cater for the school and the community.
The brief was included in the third year Bachelor of Architectural Studies curriculum. Four students Gopaul, Naicker, Mr Liam Pio Esau and Mr Navan Padayachee were selected as finalists.
Gopaul said: ‘It is a great honour to win such an award. This means the world to me. I feel a sense of accomplishment as a woman trying to make it in this field.
‘Competitions like these help students strive towards accomplishments, allowing for many opportunities and doors to be opened. It’s a platform for us to show people what we are capable of in terms of our skills and passion.’
A humbled Naicker added that: ‘I’ve worked really hard throughout the year and I’m really proud of this achievement. My message to students would be to be confident with your design, believe in yourself and take the advice given to you from your lectures during critiquing sessions.’
Both students plan to save the prize money for their postgraduate studies.
Academic leader for the Discipline of Architecture, Mr Lawrence Ogunsanya, said: ‘We sent the students out to do a real analysis of the environment to investigate a myriad issues such as physical and social factors, strengths and weaknesses of the site to inform their designs.
‘Their work was expressive, innovative with architectural flair. I am truly impressed by the calibre of their work and it’s great to see their journey in terms of designing a school that is relevant to the community that surrounds it,’ Ogunsanya said.