Architecture, Planning & Housing

UKZN Students win International Architecture Award

Masters in Architecture students Mr Vahin Parmananda and Mr Mthokozisi Sibisi have won the prestigious 14th Annual Saint-Gobain Multicomfort house student contest held in Dubai.

The students competed against representatives from other international universities, winning the coveted title and cash prize, for their design called Solar Creek Community, which is a climate-driven approach to creating sustainable communities.

Developed by ISOVER in close collaboration with the Dubai Municipality and Dubai Properties Group, the contest requires entrants to create a vision for a transcultural vibrant community development in the Cultural Village of Dubai.

Students had to create sustainable architecture integrated into the urban space while responding to Saint-Gobain MultiComfort criteria, taking into account the climatic conditions and regional context of the Al Jadaf site in Dubai.

‘Winning took us by surprise considering the variety of projects and the stiff competition but we’re happy that we came out on top,’ said Parmananda. ‘It was also really great exposure to be a part of this and to represent UKZN. It feels good to be the best and it validates our career choice.’

For Sibisi, it was both exciting and a memorable experience as this was his first experience of competing on an international platform. ‘It was not only a big win for us but a win for the architecture discipline. The support we received was incredible. Family and friends are still emotional about our win.’

Architecture lecturer Ms Magda Cloete, who accompanied the students, added, ‘After seeing the 50 presentations from 30 different countries represented, I was confident we would finish in the top five. The contextual approach to architecture and research-driven design processes provided the quality of the students’ project. These are the aspects that we as a discipline instil through all the years of the architectural education at UKZN and it seems to set us apart not just in South Africa but in the world.’

The students were welcomed home with pomp and celebration by staff from the School of Built Environment and Development Studies.

Dean of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘They have made us proud. Winning at an international level shows excellence, dedication and hard work. They have put us on the map and serve as encouragement for other students to do well. Congratulations to the students.’’

To view their winning design, visit

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