School of Built Environment & Development Studies

Architecture Students to Compete in Global Contest

Architecture students Mr Mohammed Shah and Mr Neeshailin Naicker walked away with first prize at the South African Saint-Gobain Multi Comfort Student Contest. UKZN entered for the first time last year and won first prize in Dubai.
Architecture students Mr Neeshailin Naicker (second left) and Mr Mohammed Shah (second right) walked away with first prize at the South African Saint-Gobain Multi Comfort Student Contest.
Architecture students Mr Neeshailin Naicker (second left) and Mr Mohammed Shah (second right) walked away with first prize at the South African Saint-Gobain Multi Comfort Student Contest.

As the 2019 regional winners Shah and Naicker will travel to Milan, Italy to take part in the finals in June. They will be competing against 50 teams representing 28 countries.

The contest has been running since 2004 and is in its fourth year in South Africa. The latest round requires participants to create a vision for the future sustainable development of the Crescenzago metro station area in Milan. This includes renovation of three existing buildings connected to a new mix-used development, including residential and public spaces and services. Comfort, performance and safety are key, while addressing the challenges of sustainable construction, resource efficiency and climate change.

Shah and Naicker titled their proposal Tree AI. It bio-mimics the functions of a tree in the same way human AI seeks to mimic human systems of thinking and speaking. The proposal thus offers a new way of thinking about how humans can use their space for resource generation, and healthier living.

This eco-sustainable village does not use resources from the city, but regenerates its own resources for use on site. This includes solar harvest, grey water recycling, air cleaning and urban farming. The project is a celebration of sustainable technologies, coming together to improve people’s lives.

‘It has been a phenomenal journey and the experience has been stellar. Being the front runners of the South African team emboldens us in representing our country on an international stage. We are excited about the industry exposure, and looking forward to meeting and interacting with architecture students from around the world,’ said Shah.

They have refined their project for submission at the international stage. ‘We will be presenting the work to our class as practice for the competition,’ said Naicker.

The students’ lecturer, Ms Magda Cloete will accompany them. She attended the teachers’ day in Milan in September last year where she visited the site and met with the various stakeholders in preparation for the contest task.

‘This insight into the design problem enabled refinement of the design scheme. The final project looks really promising and we have high hopes of being placed at the top again this year,’ said Cloete. ‘The sponsoring company, Saint Gobain, has also been very supportive in helping to refine the design and will be providing input on their verbal presentation. It is great to have industry support for our students in their educational development.’

Shah and Naicker are currently enrolled in a two-year Masters of Architecture programme. They will spend the rest of this year completing their coursework, with next year being spent writing a thesis. Naicker plans to work for a few years before starting his own practice while Shah hopes to be employed in a strong design environment where he can make use of his conceptual skills.

They advised other students to work hard and work smart, noting that, ‘the profession rewards those who stick with it.’

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