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UJ GSA alumnus wins top regional prize

University of Johannesburg (UJ)’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture (FADA) graduate Jaco Jonker, was recently named regional winner of the 29th Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards, receiving a cheque of $479 for the first prize. ​

“Jaco’s prize confirms our confidence in the new approach to architectural education that we’ve taken in the past couple of years,” according to Prof Lesley Lokko, Head of the newly-formed Graduate School of Architecture (GSA) at UJ. “It shows the GSA is on its way up.”

Dr Finzi Saidi, Head of Department: Architecture, further noted, ‘this is what can be achieved in Johannesburg’s rich context when students are encouraged to critically engage with our context.’

The Master’s in Architecture (MTech) is a relatively new programme, introduced in 2010 by Alex Opper, currently Course Convener of the Undergraduate Programme. In 2015, under the leadership of Prof Lesley Lokko, the Unit System was introduced, which enables lecturers to pursue their research interests whilst engaging students in exploratory, speculative and challenging learning experiences, focusing not only on the way the world is, but crucially, what it might be like in the future. UJ is currently the first – and only – school of architecture in Africa to offer this innovative teaching and learning approach.

Jonker’s winning thesis, The Plug-In Plantation – Reforestation and industrialization of the Nasrec Precinct, explores restructuring of part of the city through the implementation of a new timber mill industry.His proposals attempts to decrease direct and secondary impacts of soil erosion, heavy-metal toxins, and rampart water evaporation from increasingly common dust storms along the engineered mine dumps in the area.

“UJ offered me free rein to do anything with the projects that were given. In that way I was able to reach my full potential by being innovative in my course,” said Jonker.

The ambitious architect, who is currently working at Paragon Architects, believes he is well on his way to bringing back sustainability into the urban environment. Jonker advises students who are studying architecture to focus on integrating other aspects of their lives into their architectural projects. “It`s not what you know, but how you do it,” he said.

Annually, Corobrik honors the best practices in the profession nationally. In 2015, another UJ student, Harold Johnson also won the 2015 Corobrik: Architectural Student of the Year award.

Dr Saidi concluded, “The awards serve to attract high calibre postgraduate students, as well as staff, from around South Africa and the continent.”

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