NMMU first-years’ work leads to Cape Town exhibition

MARCH 24, 2016

The impressive effort of first-year architecture students at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University – who pour hours and energy into recreating the plans and models of existing architectural masterpieces – has led to a unique travelling exhibition of their work.

A total of 432 exhibition pieces – consisting of 288 drawings and 144 models from first-year students in 2013, 2014 and 2015 – will be showcased in “The architect pop up gallery” at the Cape Institute for Architecture (Cifa) in Cape Town, from March 31 to April 28. The exhibition will travel to Bloemfontein in June and then Johannesburg in August.

The displayed works include reproductions of 36 villas by Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio, who lived in the 1500s, and 36 houses by architects from the 20th and 21st centuries, including Le Corbusier, Mies van de Rohe and South African architects Gabriel Fagan and Revel Fox, among others. The exhibition is titled “Palladio and the Modern”.

“The exhibition showcases the first two projects given to first-year students. They arrive from high school with no experience in architectural drawings and building architectural models,” said NMMU architecture lecturer Dr Magda Minguzzi, who is working alongside senior lecturer and main organiser Ernst Struwig, lecturer Jean-Pierre Basson and several architecture students, to set up the exhibition. 

“Through these projects, the students can investigate what classical architecture has in common with modern architecture. They can see that many of the classical elements are still present in modern architecture … They discover the universal language of architecture.”

Minguzzi said visiting architecture lecturers and examiners were so impressed by the standard of the NMMU first-year students’ work – and this had led to the invitation from Cifa.

“The students work hard, we work hard – we help them to embrace the challenge. They do the work in class, but we are with them from morning till evening. It’s like a laboratory – we call it a ‘design research laboratory’.

“The drawings and the models are all done free-hand. There is no use of computers in first-year architecture.”

The exhibition will move to the School of Architecture in Bloemfontein during the annual Free State Festival from June 20 to 25. It will then move to Johannesburg during the annual Architecture Students’ Congress at Wits University from August 31 to September 3.

Minguzzi said the exhibition would move to Port Elizabeth at the end of the year, and include the work of 2016 first-year students.

“We are looking forward to engaging with other universities, through the work we are doing with our students.”

A number of firms are sponsoring the Cape Town exhibition, including Cifa, NMMU Trust, PPC Cement Ltd, Martin & East (Pty) Ltd, Boogertman and Partners Architects, Piet Louw Architects, Louw’s Shopfitters and The Tile House, Cape Town. Minguzzi said they hoped to get more sponsors on board to continue the exhibition to the two other destinations.  

Image: MINIATURE MASTERPIECE … One of the first-year NMMU student’s models and drawings of a Palladio design, on display at the Cape Institute for Architecture exhibition.