Over three decades, it has grown into a respected educational initiative and a highlight on institution calendars. Many of the winners and finalists have gone on to achieve great success.
“Winning this competition was an incredible tool to jumpstart my career,” says Callie van der Merwe, who won the first edition of the competition in 1992 and is now the founder of Design Partnership Australia. “Being the winner of the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative elevated my profile beyond that of designers who had been in the game for much longer and made me a better competitor, even though I was still young.”
Andrew Mboyi, the winner of the 2013 edition of the competition, is a designer working across multiple disciplines. “The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative opened up a vast number of opportunities,” he says. “I’d go as far as saying it allowed me to pick who to work for, instead of waiting for employers to pick me.
Lian Markham, Communications Manager at PG Bison, says that the 1.618 Education Initiative speaks to PG Bison’s strategy of being a purpose-led business that creates a positive social and environmental
change. “Architecture and interior design students will create the built environment of the future,” she says. “This competition is a way of not only allowing them the opportunity to experience a real-world brief without the pressures that usually come with one, but to expose them to important social themes to help them to understand the impact they can have in shaping the world we will all live in.”
The 2022 brief
Every year, a site is selected for the new competition brief based on where the previous year’s winner was studying. The 2021 winner, Zander Etienne Deysel, was studying architecture at Nelson Mandela University, so for 2022, the competition brief is set in the Kouga region. It’s themed “Living Big” and requires students to develop a proposal for a mixed-use residential and retail space for the Coega Development Corporation, with residential units of various sizes.
Nathaniel Wakefield, director at Batley Partners – a design-focused architecture and interior design consultancy based in Johannesburg – is one of the competition judges and helped us to design the brief.
“My brief for the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative centred around finding a real-world solution to the real-world lack of housing problem for workers in the area,” he explains. “This solution must be a workable, adaptable and modular model for use elsewhere, where workers could live close to work and avoid spending exorbitant sums of money on transport.”
He encourages students to remember that as architects and interior designers, they will not only be designing buildings, but places where people will live and interact. “We must provide the correct accommodation and offer the right solution for the problem. People need dignity and homes that they can live in and have a sense of pride,” he says. “It's so much more important than just providing square boxes for people to live in. Basically, we need to create environments where people can interact on a social level when we design these developments.”
The winning student and their lecturer each win a cash prize of R50 000, while the runner-up takes home R25 000 and third-place wins R10 000. Each of the top 10 finalists selected is also invited to a special awards ceremony, with travel and hospitality covered by PG Bison, and those who do not place in the top three each enjoy a cash prize of R2 000.
“We are looking forward to seeing what this year’s entrants produce,” says Markham. “We are always impressed and inspired by what our students deliver, and by the creativity South Africa’s young talent has to offer.”
For more information, visit the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative website, www.1sixoneeight.co.za.