Architecture and education have long had a comfortable relationship – combining philosophy with process, art with practical design and presentation with realisation.
So it comes as no surprise when the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) and the Eastern Cape Institute of Architects (ECIA) come together to host an exhibition that highlights how the two interface.
This week NMMU and the ECIA have collaborated to showcase the top five designs submitted for two new NMMU buildings, the Life and Physical Sciences building on the University’s South Campus and the Bachelor of Education (B-Ed) Foundation Phase building at the Missionvale Campus.
The exhibition opens on Friday 11 April and will also feature the unveiling of the new NMMU South Campus Alumni House design.
The ECIA believes the collaboration was borne of closer relations after the institute launched and hosted its Urban Assembly congress late last year with the express purpose of bringing together the “silos” of academia, public sector and private business.
“The whole point of the Urban Assembly last year was to improve dialogue between institutions – and this is clearly happening, as NMMU responded positively when I contacted them with the idea of the ECIA hosting the exhibition,” said Debbie Wintermeyer, ECIA committee member.
The ECIA also commended NMMU for initiating a competition as a route to identifying the winning design.
“This approach goes a long way to not only develop the industry, but also showcase architecture to the public and allow them to engage with the architect. Often architecture is seen as a removed and elitist activity and these kind of participatory forums challenge the architect to engage with the public and so makes the process,” added Wintermeyer.
The ECIA collaborated with NMMU on the competition rules, processes and judging, after it provided the competition judging panel with a member who could assist with adjudication.
The ECIA said competitions are a positive alternative to procuring work as they stimulate creativity and healthy rivalry within the industry so as to raise the bar and quality of work.
Wintermeyer said the public can expect of the exhibition “the kind of quality of architecture that exists right here on the city’s doorstep”.
“Often architects gets criticised for not engaging more on the work we do and sharing with the public, but an exhibition of this nature allows the public to see what institutions are building, to provide comment on it and ask why certain decisions are made and certain design approaches taken in a real attempt to engage,” said Wintermeyer.
“This is an exciting opportunity to see creative thinking in action and to see what design ideas prevail and why, while also showcasing the incredible architectural prowess we have in our city.”
The B-Ed building is a building of about 2 575m² and consists of a series of classrooms, micro-study areas, a library, offices, resource centre, storerooms and computer lab. The project is valued at R43-million and aims to create a space that, according to the brief, “humanises pedagogy”.
The design, according to NMMU, needed to accommodate a “vibrant research, scholarship and innovation culture” and create an environment conducive to teaching excellence, experimentation, experiential learning and holism.
The Life and Physical Sciences building brief aimed at making the sciences more accessible by emphasizing warmth, creativity, reflection, symmetry, flow, modern technology and sustainability as central to the design ethos.
Valued at about R37-million the project includes classrooms, laboratories, offices, conference rooms and study spaces over an area of 2 290m².
All winning designs will be presented by the respective architects at the opening. The exhibition opens on Friday April 11 at 4pm and runs for just over a week until April 19 at the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) renovated Athenaeum Gallery in Central.
The exhibition launch is open to the public and architecture and design fans are encouraged to attend.
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