Q&A with PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative 2022 Runners-up

Top talents share what the annual PG Bison competition means to them.

Last month, Yolanda Mpanza, architecture student from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Daniel November, architecture student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, were announced as joint runners-up of the PG Bison 2022 1.618 Education Initiative.

The competition required students to develop a proposal for a mixed-use residential and retail space located in Motherwell in the Eastern Cape. We caught up with the two top finishers to find out more about their submissions and competition experience.

How did it feel to be selected as a finalist for the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative, and then as a runner-up?

Yolanda: I still can’t believe it. I have never been brave enough to enter any competition in my life. This was the first competition I’ve ever entered. Looking back at how much effort I put into my entry I can truly say I’m proud of myself. This has taught me to stop being hard on myself and believe in myself more.

Daniel: It’s an honour. This competition is a gateway to many other great opportunities and exposure. This will grant me an opportunity to expand on my career as a young, upcoming architect.

Tell us a bit about your submission.

Yolanda: My design is driven by the concept of “Space and Place”. In order for a space to become a place, it must have meaning. This meaning is attached to the space by people and it then becomes a place.

The theory of phenomenology, which is mainly about the five human senses, is used, as well as manipulation of space, material, light and shadow. Simplicity, or rather minimalism, is what the design approach also tried to achieve with the interior and exterior. Corrugated iron was used because it is the most common material in the area used on roofs and some informal settlements. It was also used to kind of blend the housing with the rest of the environment, rather than introducing a material that would make the people of the area perceive the housing is too high-class or low-class for them.

Even though the housing is mid-lower income, it needed a modern twist and design techniques that would elevate it while still keeping it simple. The corrugated iron is insulated and the roof is pitched 30 degrees to north for the solar panels and pitched to the south for the skylight for natural light. The interior is a combination of PG Bison products and plywood. The light that enters the spaces makes one appreciate the interior finishes as it defines the textures and colours of the finishes awakening the five senses.

Daniel: My entry, Sunbird’s Nest, is inspired by the local natural beauty of the KwaZulu-Natal coastal region and tries to bring nature into the lives of people living within a nest-like community. The project aims to jump-start a new way of conscious living with humans and nature in an affordable housing setting, because this has been overlooked for decades in South Africa.

What did you enjoy most about the brief?

Yolanda: I enjoyed how straight forward the brief was. It clearly explained enough for an interior design student and also an architecture student to be able to tackle it.

Daniel: What I enjoyed most about the brief was the opportunity to tackle a housing problem in South Africa that I face on a daily basis. It was the chance to explore new designs with realistic constraints, which helped to solidify the design concept.

What did you find most challenging?

Yolanda: Designing on a site outside KwaZulu-Natal was really challenging as I could not visit the site in person so I had to depend on Google Maps, Google Earth and GIS to give me the information I needed.

Daniel: Designing a spacious and comfortable living space in a small building footprint was the most challenging part of the brief.

What are your future career plans?

Yolanda: After finishing my undergrad studies this year I’m hoping to find a job in a firm where I can get work experience and then go back to do my Honours afterwards. I’m also hoping to tap into other fields related to architecture, like interior architecture or landscape architecture, as I’m really interested in these two as well.

Daniel: My career plans? To become a professional architect and reshape the built environment in any positive way that I can.

What was your experience of the PG Bison 1.618 competition?

Yolanda: I am very grateful to the judges and PG Bison for giving me this opportunity. It has made me believe in myself more, it has made me dream bigger than before. 

Daniel: What I loved most about this competition was that it gave young people the opportunity to show what they think what the future should be in this country. The youth are the future.

Stay up-to-date on the next edition of the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative on the website.