2019 winner – where is she now?

Where’s our 2019 winner now?

Sanette de Villiers, an architecture student from Nelson Mandela University (NMU) in Port Elizabeth, won the 2019 edition of the 1.618 Education Initiative.

Her entry investigated, conceptualised and developed a residential design model, aimed at middle income households, to help facilitate a housing programme for this market. The objective was to improve perceptions of urban compaction and attract the growing band of the city. Sanette’s project was titled “Pecus Astruo- Creating space in a world of densification”. She chose the name from two words: pecus, meaning “cluster” and astruo, meaning “add to”.

Using a series of solid and void forms in clusters, her system made expansion possible within the development as families grow without claiming new ground. The solid forms were used for the residential units. They are flexible, as spaces are created by light partitioning walls. Courtyards were included to create room for social interaction, as well as addressing safety.

The judges were impressed with Sanette’s submission as it not only addressed all elements of the brief, but demonstrated clarity of thought.

As we prepare to announce the 2020 winner of the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative, we caught up with Sanette a year on, to find out what she’s up to now.

What did this competition mean for you personally, and for your future as an architect?

It definitely gave me more confidence in what I do and my work. It made me believe that anything is possible. 

How did you become interested in architecture?

From as early as I can remember, I have wanted to do something artistic and practical – something that would make a difference. During high school I had technical drawing as a subject (best subject ever!), which really helped me decide that architecture is definitely something I would like and something I would be interested in. With friends studying architecture, I started asking questions and the rest is history. The thing that stands out the most is being able to see an end product to all the hard work and long hours.  

What’s your favourite part about studying architecture at NMU?

I would have to say the open communication between all students of different years – being able to learn from each other’s mistakes, the support of students in tough times and the fun late nights working at varsity. 

How did you address the competition brief last year?

To understand every aspect of the brief, I divided it into smaller parts, writing down key words that I would incorporate into the design. I think the main goal was to create a building that houses expanding families without creating a skyscraper building – something that adds value to the everyday lives of the occupants. A space to enjoy. 

When COVID-19 arrived, you couldn’t take your first prize trip to Milan. PG Bison decided to award a cash prize instead, given the uncertainty of travel. The change of plans must have been a bit disappointing. Can you tell us a bit about the experience and how you’ve handled it?

It has been disappointing to cancel all the plans and not being able to use the money for planning my own trip, but I have come to understand that it could be used for more important purposes. For now, I am busy investing the money into a house that will be rented out. This way, the investment grows faster. I will then, at a later stage, be able to use the money in a better place – maybe someday starting my own firm or travelling with the profits or even having a down payment on a house. I’ll see what the future holds. 

What’s your advice for young people considering studying architecture?

Do research, understand what it’s all about, work hard and believe in yourself. 

I would also just like to say good luck to this year’s entries. Just enjoy the ride. Whatever happens, happens for a reason. You might not have gotten as far as you have hoped but you definitely got a whole lot of experience.  I’d also like to say a big thank you to the PG team with the planning of the event and helping of all the admin stuff – you are great.