UJ student wins Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year competition

​​University of Johannesburg (UJ) Architecture student Harold Johnson made history as the first UJ student to win the Student of the Year Award at the prestigious annual Corobrik Awards 2015 on Thursday, 23 April.

“A win at Corobrik is an enormous confidence boost for us, and for our students. We’re the youngest school of architecture in South Africa, if not the continent as a whole, and our Master’s programme is only in its seventh year. This is a validation of the school’s position. It’s our job to provide the critical framework for as wide a range of interests and ideas as possible and to resist a design orthodoxy that forces (or gently encourages) students to conform,” said Prof Lesley Lokko: Associate Professor of Architecture and Postgraduate Programme Convener at UJ.

The Corobrik Awards are the country’s premier event to highlight the creative and technical talent of the cream of South Africa’s architectural students and to drive the advancement of design excellence nationally.

In January this year, Johnson won the Regional Corobrik Student of the Year Award, which earned him an automatic entry into the National competition.

“The journey forced me to unpack normative definitions and tropes, and to question the validity and usefulness of over-used notions such as ‘community’, ‘intervention’ and ‘informal’. Questionable terms which currently shroud both the reality of Johannesburg’s inner-city vertical settlements but conversely, our ability and willingness to engage with them,” shared Johnson on his outstanding project.

The young Johnson’s thesis, The ‘Dark’ City: Critical Interventions in Urban Despair, is a journey through the epidemic known as ‘bad buildings’ in inner city Johannesburg. Johnson began by observing and documenting the depressing cycle of violence, abandonment and exodus. He tracked statistics: delved into the relationship between those on the first rungs of urbanisation and those who’ve slipped below. He also investigated the city’s responsibility towards its own housing infrastructure and what happens when that falls away.

Prof Lokko went on to say that the student’s project was unusual in that it is both a design thesis and a design thesis critique. Johnson tried to do two things: satisfy the requirements of a normative thesis project and be critical of the process simultaneously, quite a difficult thing to do.

UJ congratulates Harold, his supervisors Alex Opper and Leon Krige and Team McGurk, who constructed the impressive stand at this year’s awards.

For more information on Harold’s thesis and/or on the Graduate Programme in Architecture at UJ, please contact the Graduate Programme Convener, Prof Lesley Lokko on llokko@uj.ac.za.


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