The RIBA President's Medals Student Awards

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This project involves a trenchant exploration of an unattainable and incomprehensible typology. The resolution relies on a number of extraneous textual theoretical systems, both intertwining and non-confluent, through the phenomenological exploration of spatially determined devices: threshold, sound and perception of movement. The incongruency of incidental and inconsistent programme reveals an unimportance of programmatic comprehension and hierarchy, blurring potential accessibility. Differential public and private activity ‘intensity’ levels make reference to the varying psychological phases between consciousness and sub-consciousness.

A generic heuristic process is applied in the design and continued in the building’s process of use, resulting in a closer hermeneutic understanding of the building’s ‘identity’, through its application within a certain context. This enforces the ambiguity of the site as an existing ‘artefact’ which retains its identity and lends itself to the formation of a third phenomenon of site and building; the architectural medium facilitates the integration of events occurring within and extraneous to the site, whilst all relationships, though ever-present, are not always perceived.


Christiaan Van Niekerk



The candidate succeeded in challenging the concerns of the School by setting up his own and developing them in a highly creative manner to determine a programme in the context of site and design. The notion of boundary and threshold is investigated – between city and zoological garden, road and greenbelt, noise and silence and users of the building(s) itself. The indeterminacy of the crossover is exploited deliberately so that the behaviour of people may also be observed.

The development of the generic theoretical approach was meticulously documented – first in a diary, afterwards revised in the dissertation, mirroring the layering of research, which was not linear, but rather cyclical, which time and again refers to the inception of idea, all the while inferring various influences. The entire work includes the design of a building within the context of the site chosen for analysis and the theory presented in the paper.

All the features of the site are challenged – the noisy road, the open storm-water channel, the harshly stepped boundary between city and zoo and are compounded in a building forming crossing, place and edge.

The building itself is investigated in as much detail. From the expansion breaks echoing the geological fractures in the hill to the choice and handling of material and construction methods, that will assist in recording the ageing and eventual decay of the structure. The dissertation indicates an intimate involvement with architecture and the significance thereof – for the architect (within the tenets of theory) and the user. The end result is socially responsible, responsive and justified whilst being surprising, unpredictable, and at the same time convincing.

Mr Jonathan Mosley
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