Top award for water-saving project

Werner Oelofse and Christie van Niekerk of Corobrik with the winner of the UCT regional finals of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the year, Kenneth Maine.

Sea Point resident Kenneth Main has won a place in the National Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Awards.

His urban design project focuses on saving water that would otherwise have been wasted.

The project was designed in Windhoek, Namibia, where he is originally from, but he believes the design can be replicated in Cape Town.

The Corobrik competition has been held annually for the past 29 years to reward and advance excellence in the architectural profession countrywide. It involves regional competitions at eight major South African universities.

The project, said Mr Main, deals with the issue of waste contamination and water conservation in the natural and urban landscapes of the riverbed, its edges and man-made peripheries. The research was conducted in the northern boundary of the city of Windhoek along a stretch of polluted riverbed in the Kilimanjaro informal settlement.

Aspects of environmental degradation, water conservation and lack of basic infrastructure informed the proposed urban framework, which aims to establish an alternative and more efficient system which collects, stores, filters and reuses wastewater for both drinking and irrigation purposes through a series of four contextually assigned architectural devices.

“I designed the project in Windhoek because they were going through a drought,” said Mr Main. “The place I did it in there has very little infrastructure and I saw an opportunity to save water. It is about collecting the water and distilling it to make it drinkable again.”

Part of the project included an agricultural learning centre for the area, designed by Mr Main.

He said the project has a place in Cape Town too.

“The environment in Namibia is very dry but it could work in Cape Town. I don’t think it would work in a place like the CBD but it could work in informal areas which are less densely populated. It is a basic principle of collecting water that would otherwise have been lost.”

Mr Main, who finished his degree in architecture last year, said he was currently looking for a job.

“I’ve always been creative and always had a passion for the environment.”

He added that architects were becoming more mindful that their designs impacted the environment. The national leg of the competition takes place in Johannesburg on Wednesday May 10 where the winner, who will walk away with R50 000 in prize money, will be announced.