13 June 2024 | Story Martinette Brits | Photo Supplied
Arran Wood pictured with Prof Jan Smith
Arran Wood pictured with Prof Jan Smith, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Architecture, in front of his project.

A former Master’s student in Architecture at the University of the Free State (UFS) has recently been honoured with the esteemed Corobrik National Student Architecture Award. The 2023 grand prize was awarded to Arran Wood from UFS for his project "Spectral Flesh – Remembrance," which explores South Africa's forgotten nuclear history.

Corobrik’s vision for this competition is to provide up-and-coming architecture students a platform to showcase their architectural talent and creativity. The eight finalists were chosen by major South African universities, each selecting its best Master’s architectural student to participate in the awards.

The eight regional finalists had the opportunity to present their theses to an esteemed panel of judges, including Carin Smuts from CS Studio Architects, Somers Govender from Artek 4 Architects and Rudolf Roos from HDG Pretoria.

Unveiling forgotten conflict: Architecture as a mediator and reminder

Wood’s project delves into the role architecture can play as a mediator and reminder of forgotten conflicts. “The Angola-South African War left extensive scars and remains a raw place in the lives of many South Africans. Yet the memory and memorialisation of the conflict have become a shrouded spectre. One of the most obscured fallouts of the war was the fact that South Africa managed to construct nuclear weapons and became the first nation to decommission their nuclear arsenal voluntarily,” Wood explained.

The thesis proposes a theoretical foundry and “inverted monument” at the forgotten nuclear weapons development site at Pelindaba near Hartbeesport Dam. He chose this project due to his interest in the relationship between architecture and memory, particularly the memory of warfare. “I wanted to focus my research on something specific to South Africa. I settled on the Angola-South African War because its fallout is still a relevant struggle that many people deal with, yet it remains largely unspoken. This led me to discover how intimately the nuclear weapons programme was connected to the conflict,” Wood stated. 

Awards pave the way to success

Wood mentioned that he had known about the prestigious Corobrik Awards early in his studies but only realised later that one winner is chosen to represent the whole country. “Winning the national award still feels a bit unreal. From prior experience, I have seen how the award's prestige follows the winners long into their careers, standing as a significant achievement. It is a great honour to be considered one of these winners, and I am very grateful for the lasting recognition the award brings to my career.”

He credited the lecturers and staff at the Department of Architecture for their significant role in his success. “They taught me what I know, and it was most inspiring to see their passion for architecture. The support from the lecturers at this incredible department goes far beyond their job descriptions,” he remarked.

Wood also won the Dean’s Medal for the best results in the final-year Master’s class during the April graduation ceremonies of UFS. He is currently working for an architectural firm in Cape Town, named TwoFiveFive Architects

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