On 29 September 2022, the top 10 finalists of the PG Bison Education Initiative came together for a glamourous awards ceremony in Johannesburg.

The competition, which in 2022 celebrates 30 years of showcasing up-and-coming talent, draws support from around the country, with the brief written into the third-year curricula of participating educational institutions.

While the level of talent shown in the competition submissions was high, the judges decided not to award a first prize for the competition this year, as they felt that no one entry fully met the requirements of the brief. Instead of first, second and third places being announced, Yolanda Mpanza, architecture student from the University of KwaZulu-Natal, and Daniel November, architecture student from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, were announced as joint runners-up in the competition.

Daniel November’s entry

Daniel November’s entry

“Congratulations to Yolanda and to Daniel, as well as their lecturers and institutions,” said Jason Wells, Brand & Marketing Manager at PG Bison. “Their entries showed great promise and addressed the most elements of the brief. While our expert panel of judges acknowledged the wealth of architectural and interior design talent on display at the judging event, they ultimately agreed that it would not be right to nominate a winner when no one entry met all the requirements we asked for, particularly considering the context of the site and the community at the heart of the brief. The PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative is a respected competition in the industry because of the high standards it upholds, and we feel it’s important to protect that standard. We encourage the education institutions to spend more time on the human aspect of future briefs and look forward to engaging with them on this point at our debriefing session next month.”

Nathaniel Wakefield, 2022 competition brief author and judge from Batley Partners said that the judges had a robust discussion. “While the standard of design was generally high, we felt the submissions missed certain important aspects of the brief, particularly regarding context. It’s important in any development to not only understand the technical requirements, but also those that relate to the human aspect. We feel that the students need to firm up this aspect of their competition submissions in future, and remember the focus is ultimately on meeting the needs of the people who will be using the space. The need for interrogation and analysis of the Brief is important to provide the correct end product.”

One of the qualities that have contributed to the endurance of this competition, is PG Bison’s willingness to engage with the educational institutions and critically assess the competition so that it may continually evolve. PG Bison will be reconsidering its recently implemented practice of using the city or provincial location of the current winner’s institution for the site of the following year’s brief. As the site can only be selected once a winner is announced, the brief is now being compiled and disseminated to the institutions quite late. PG Bison is committed to ensuring sites are selected from around the country when developing future briefs but will move back to the practice of working on the following year’s brief before the current competition is concluded. This will ensure the brief can be finalised in time to be incorporated into the following year’s academic calendar and alleviate undue time pressures on the educational institutions. This will greatly assist by giving lecturers more time to clarify their queries and allow them and the students to address briefs more thoroughly in future.

Yolanda Mpanza’s entry

Yolanda Mpanza’s entry

Nelson Kubheka, MD of Ommni Design and one of the new judges for 2022, said that the overall judging experience was exciting and there were many entries with potential. Mardre Meyer, Creative Director and Partner at Source Interior Brand Architects, said areas where entries could have been stronger included prioritising the dignity of the future occupants of the residential units they designed, showing an understanding of the needs of these residents, paying attention to practicalities, providing attractive layouts, and addressing potential for growth (i.e. if unit occupants choose to start a family or wish to expand their space), among other things.

The top finishers, Mpanza and November, created the best entries overall and shared the combined second- and third-place prizes allotted (R25 000 and R10 000, added and split down the middle), taking home R17 500 each. The remaining eight finalists each took home a cash prize of R2 000.

“We want to encourage our finalists that the decision not to award first prize is not a reflection of their design ability,” stressed Wells. “We can see that this is a talented group of young people. We encourage them to take the judges’ feedback to heart as they seek to address future briefs, remembering that ultimately, spaces are designed for people, and not just a showcase of their skills.”

 “Talent alone is not enough,” added Kubheka. “Remain teachable, passionate and tenacious in your pursuit for greatness.”