12 November 2021 | Story Lunga Luthuli | Photo Andre Ferreira
UFS Council Chambe
The refurbished Council Chambers of the University of the Free State was recognised with a South African Institute of Architects Free State Regional Award for Architectural Projects.

Winning three South African Institute of Architects (SAIA) Free State Regional Awards is the embodiment of the University of the Free State’s (UFS) commitment to continually improve infrastructure and create accessible spaces. 

Two of the UFS projects – the Council Chambers and the Modular Lecture Space and Assessment Centre – emerged victorious in the category for Architectural Projects, while Prof Jonathan Noble, Head of the Department of Architecture, won an award in Category B – Work of Social Importance – for his book, The Architecture of Peter Rich: Conversations with Africa. 
SAIA members were invited to submit Free State- and Northern Cape-based projects, completed between 1 January 2019 and 31 March 2021, for regional adjudication by a panel of judges consisting of professional architects Jeremie Malan, Diaan van der Westhuizen, and Velka Laubscher.

Each participating project were visited on 29 and 30 September 2021; the panel  was ‘delighted with the quality of workmanship’. 

Velka Laubscher, President of the South African Institute of Architects in the Free State, says: “The Regional Awards Programme is held biennially, and each visited project was adjudicated and awarded based on merit, looking at design, aesthetics, commodity, and orientation. 

“The panel of adjudicators also follows specific guidelines to ensure that the process adheres to SAIA’s standards,” says Laubscher.

Nico Janse van Rensburg, Senior Director: University Estates at the UFS, says, “It is a great honour to receive these accolades, as our buildings are constructed on carefully controlled budgets, but still manage to exhibit a refinement in terms of architectural aesthetics. The recognition also reflects how the institution’s infrastructure performs compared to university buildings in general.”

The Department of Higher Education and Training recently recommended the UFS to other universities in the country to learn from the institution how to undertake infrastructural development while adhering to budget constraints. 

The main criteria for projects to receive SAIA recognition not only involve compliance with a functional programme, but should also deal intelligently with contextual informants, creating spaces that offer opportunities for meaningful interaction, and the use of materials and measures that are sympathetic to the environment in general, as well as to our local climate conditions.

“We welcome the recognition by the department, as it gives us an opportunity to also interact and learn from other universities, since there is always room for improvement. The university community can rest assured that the allocated budget is spent to reflect the institution’s objectives and to get value for money,” says Janse van Rensburg.

Anton Roodt, architect and urban planner from GXY Architects and Roodt Architects joint consultants, says: “The value for the University of the Free State lies in the fact that the university is seen, both by its internal and external stakeholders, as an institution that values the contribution that good architecture can add to academic programmes and projecting the image of the university as an enlightened institution.” 

Projects awarded with a ‘Regional Award for Architecture 2021’ will now be submitted for national adjudication to become eligible for a SAIA Award of Merit 2022 and a SAIA Award for Excellence 2022.

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