Congratulations to the  2020 top ten finalists in the PG Bison 1.618 Education Initiative! The winner will be announced on 11 November, but before then we wanted to introduce you to our finalists.

Their entries were required to meet a brief titled “The Pursuit of Balance” to transform a site in a community-based space for work and play in the Lower Baakens Valley, South End, Port Elizabeth, known as Chicky’s Yard. PG Bison asked students to select a tenant or brand and design a fit-for-purpose space within the existing development, balancing the tenant/brand requirements with a social cause to elevate the brand experience.

Amike du Plessis

Amike is a BArch graduate from the University of the Free State and a second-year interior design student at Design Time School of Interior Design. She enjoys being outdoors with friends or family, with a sketchbook in hand to document moments and objects found along the way.

“My project is called Umbona, which means maize in Xhosa,” she says. “The brand and initiative are one. Umbona aims to empower all members of the surrounding Xhosa community. The men are provided with an agricultural starter pack as well as a water source due to the intense drought in the Eastern Cape. A percentage of the yield is returned back to Umbona, and the rest may be consumed to fight hunger in underprivileged communities. The maize is then processed by Umbona where all parts of the maize plant is used, including the by-products. The brand then works closely with the women of the Xhosa communities to harness and develop their traditional skills to produce sustainable, bespoke fashion, furniture and lifestyle products. At the Umbona showroom, guests can interact with the women of these communities as they work. The brand also collaborated with the neighbouring brewery to produce craft beer and whiskey from maize, to support the concept of small businesses teaming up to support one another.”

Amike says she feels honoured to be part of the top ten and to be recognised as a young creative. “Considering the global pandemic and the wide influence it has had on all platforms, particularly employment, I hope that this exposure will enable me to find a job in 2021,” she says. “I would potentially use the cash prize money to start an entrepreneurial business and brand, involving fashion, product and furniture design. I would adopt a similar concept to the Umbona brand and collaborate with other local creatives, as well as incorporating up and coming sustainable concepts, and social causes. Alternatively I would put the money forward to continue my studies.”

Follow Amike on Instagram: @amikeduplessis.

Paula Ferreira

Paula is studying interior design at Greenside Design Center and her concept involves working with Ngwenya Glass, giving people the opportunity to experience the unique art of glass blowing.

“The store invites guests to awaken their senses as they move and interact with the space,” she says. “This project collaborates with the brewery next door, in order to incorporate a fresh feel into the design. This design and brand encourages people to socialise while having fun and learning a new skill at the same time.”

Her social cause involves designing a set of cutlery, along with creating food parcels for township communities, such as the Red Location and Welmar Township. 

“The overall aesthetic of the store suits the warehouse environment and doesn’t move far off of Chicky’s Yard aura, and the user experience is certainly one to leave guests ‘blown away’,” she quips.

When Paula is not studying, she loves to plug in her earphones and listen to music as an escape from a busy world, as well as spending quality time with loved ones and experiencing new and adventurous sights. 

Follow Paula on Instagram: @paulavf98 

Jaime Scholz

Jaime is studying interior design at BHC School of Design and says the hardest part of the brief was taking her original idea of creating interactions between people in the social hub and applying it in her perspective of the world’s new normal after the Covid-19 pandemic. “Answering the brief in level 5 lockdown made it tricky to design for what I expect the future to be, instead of the global health crisis we are in,” she says. “To solve my predicament I made sure of plenty of natural ventilation, as well as enough space to distance in social spaces and activities created for people to still enjoy them safely.”

The tenant she picked for the commercial space is Kindle from Amazon. “The store is a digital library filled with tablets from Kindle instead of books, which brings back the traditional library environment but in a whole new perspective that aims to attract the younger generation,” she says. “I linked the Kindle store to assist with the social cause of the global organisation Greenpeace, whose aim is to expose and rehabilitate environmental injustices. #Savetheforests is a campaign to which Kindle indirectly contributes from marketing digital books to creating biophilic spaces, as well as directly contributing by donating profits to the organisation.”

She says that using PG Bison’s wide range of durable products enabled her to be creative throughout the store. “I am super grateful to be a top ten finalist and I’m thankful to PG Bison for letting us have the opportunity to expose ourselves through this competition. Winning would be a dream turning into reality,” she says. “My goal is to study further part-time and qualify for my architecture technology degree while gaining work experience in an architectural firm.”

Follow Jaime on Instagram:  @jaime.scholz.design or on her website.

Sarah Jane Sperryn

Sarah is in her final year of an advanced diploma course in interior design at Design Time School of School of Interior Design. 

“My desire to assist victims of gender based violence at The Yokhuselo Haven in Port Elizabeth informed my concept,” she says. “Nikela is a women’s lifestyle store which gives customers an opportunity for personalised giving. Uniquely, customers are able to engage with the individual life stories of women from the Haven and participate in the selection of care-products for them. The women of the Haven also produce handmade products for Nikela, which enhances their self-esteem and facilitates community solidarity.”

Sarah also enjoys dancing and is currently completing her tap dancing teacher’s qualification alongside her design studies. “I also enjoy kayaking, snorkeling and tutoring mathematics,” she says. “To win the prestigious PG Bison award would be a great honour for me and my design school. The recognition should provide future opportunities. Should I win, I wish to donate 10% of the prize to the Yokhuselo Haven and the balance to kick-start my career or further my studies. I wish to improve the daily lives of others through my passion for interior architecture.”

Follow Sarah on Instagram @sjs.design_

Aubrey Coetzee

Aubrey is currently a second-year architectural technology student at CAD4ALL.

“The goal with my entry was to achieve, as the brief title suggested, the perfect balance,” says Aubrey. “A balance between old and new, contemporary, and traditional and in the architectural palette by combining materials that I felt complimented each other to achieve harmony. I tried to echo this balance in my presentation by selecting a more simplistic style over realistic renders to keep the focus on the proposal itself rather than photorealistic renders. The hope was also that this approach would allow my proposal to stand out and be memorable – similar to my intention for the building itself in its given context.”

He says that selecting a product/ brand was challenging as he was aware that this would guide him in the direction for his concept, experience and presentation. “Once this decision was made, the rest fell into place.”

He says winning would mean a lot to him. “I recently changed careers, so this is a new field for me. Winning this competition would be a huge boost, not only financially but also emotionally. It would also be reassurance that I made the correct decision to pursue my passion for architecture. I still have a long way to go with my studies, masters being the end goal, so most of the prize money would go towards that.”

For fun, Aubrey enjoys being outdoors, hiking, surfing, mountain biking, gardening and DIY projects.

Follow Aubrey on Instagram: @coetzeeaubrey

Abigail Wagner

Abigail is studying interior design at IIE Vega.

“This design is close to home,” she says. “It is a greenhouse retail store design for my mother’s start-up brand, Käthe, which is a company focused on using herbal remedies, essential oils and natural solutions for treating health and beauty problems. The aim was to create a sustainable and inviting environment for the unique experience of purchasing, mixing and testing the products. The Greenhouse Lab implements passive design principles and offers refill stations as well as an in-store garden to portray the values of the brand. In taking hands with Food & Trees For Africa, the lab aspires to promote community building and independence.”

She says that the hardest part of the brief was to design a structure from the ground up, seeing that interior design students usually receive a shell and only have to design the interior. “Being in the top 10 is already such an honour. However, winning this competition would provide a more notable opportunity to make my mark and share my passion and design beliefs with the interior design and architecture community of South Africa. A cash prize – no matter how big or small – will make a contribution to my life-long dream of experiencing the world’s most remarkable historic structures that I’ve been studying for so long.”

Follow Abigail on Instagram: @abigailrwagner

Armand Barnard

Armand is studying interior design at Design Time School of Interior Design.

“I am so honoured to have been chosen as a finalist and winning a 1st, 2nd or 3rd place cash prize would be nothing short of sensational,” he enthuses. “In truth, it would be such a windfall in settling my student loan. I think that being a finalist in a competition such as this one creates opportunities within the design/architectural world in terms of clout regarding one’s portfolio and CV when entering the working world.”

Armand’s entry is called The Cochlear, named for the hollow, spiral-shaped bone found in the inner ear that is responsible for auditory transaction. “The process of how sound travels and echoes inspired this building’s design,” he explains. “Hard surfaces and hollow arched hallways help bounce around waves of sound throughout this space in order to create an auditory experience. This entire building wraps around the idea of community.”

His social cause is the Hearing Health Foundation, a non-profit organisation whose mission is to prevent and cure hearing loss through ground-breaking research, and promote hearing health. A partnership with Bose creates a platform for hearing awareness and the joys of music.

Follow Armand on Instagram: @armandbydesign

Nathon Ehrke

Nathon is studying interior design at the University of Johannesburg. He enjoys going for hikes and exploring places, as well as meeting his friends for wine and a meal in well-designed restaurants. He enjoys photography and does it part-time for extra income, as well as painting and drawing.

“Society taught us that men are expected to be in control of their emotions,” he says. “Due to this, men will sometimes face mental health challenges, regardless of their cultural background. In response to men’s mental health, I choose The Mankind Project as the social cause to partner with Sorbet Man, the tenant for my space. The design promotes the notion that men may be kind to themselves through treating themselves physically and mentally.”

He says this particular Sorbet Man retail store responds directly to the mind and body of men, regardless of their physical abilities. “The design promotes the customers to become part of a community that inspire each other and to get back “in gear” through control of their experience with the Sorbet Man brand using, amongst other things, technology.”

Nathon says he thoroughly enjoyed developing the theme as he fully supports the cause he has chosen. “The brief gave me enough information to play with to develop something that I feel passionate about,” he says.

He believes winning the competition would open doors to the design community and provide a platform to get his name out there.

Follow Nathon on Instagram: @nathonehrke

Dillon Titus

Dillon is a third-year architecture student. “This year, I decided to put my design skills to the test in interior design,” he says. “So I am currently an interior design Student at Design Time School of Interior Design in Cape Town.”

In terms of the brand he selected for his entry, Dillon says the target market was focused on Millenials and the goal was to align with their characteristics to create a space where they feel like they belong by creating a virtual reality platform to join with their shopping activities. “Knowing the target market of the brand made it easy to design a space that suits the brand while considering the surrounding buildings,” he says.

If he won, he says, it would build his self-confidence as a student and it boost his portfolio and recognition within the design industry. “If I won, I would use half of the cash prize to pay my architecture outstanding tuition fees, and the other half to purchase myself a laptop with better specs.”

For fun, he enjoys spending quality time with family and friends. “It doesn’t take much to please me,” he says. “Whether we making a meal together and watching a movie, or enjoying a day of sports, I am happy. I also enjoy sport activities such as jogging and local rugby.”

Follow Dillon on Instagram: dillontitus_01

Charné Janse van Rensburg

Charné is studying interior design at IIE Vega. “If I were to win this competition, the exposure will mean the most to me (allowing my work to speak for itself and find my way forward from there), but the greatest aspect will be the fact that I was able to prove something to myself,” she says. “Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” Win or lose, I know that I have achieved more than I thought myself possible, and that is enough for me.”

Her submission is based on creating an experience aimed at the younger target audience that focuses on accumulating experiences over possessions. “This is a generation that grew up with advanced technological innovations and the older generations are quickly catching on and adapting to the consumer culture of the younger people,” she says. “This space specifically provides the opportunity for all generations, and people of all shapes and sizes, to see and enjoy the experiences provided by new advanced technological innovation. No longer is virtual reality (VR) an exclusive thing, but it becomes an inclusive social activity for all to enjoy with friends and family through the same notion as going to the movies or arcade for leisure time.”

She says the greatest challenge she faced was making all the required puzzle pieces fit together and trying to communicate those pieces, as an abstract concept, in a visual way that is easily understood. Follow Charné on Instagram: @charne_janse_van_rensburg