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Annual SoAP exhibition goes online

- Wits University

For the first time, the Wits School of Architecture and Planning (SoAP) held its End of Year School Show online.

In 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the School reconsidered the form that the annual exhibition would take, and on 1 December 2020, launched a virtual exhibition showcasing the student projects.

Professor Nnamdi Elleh, Head of School, said of the End of Year School Show that SoAP wants to “first and foremost pay homage and express gratitude to the students, parents, guardians, and above all the SoAP staff who worked as a team and overcame the challenges of online teaching and learning, and ensured that the curricular requirements were met.”

“The medium of this presentation of student projects demonstrates that we are adapting and innovating the spaces of teaching and learning during these challenging times.”

The online show was opened by a lecture, titled: A Crisis to Accelerate Current Trends, presented by Ludwig Hansen, Senior Lecturer in the School. The winners of the following prizes were also announced:

  • Corobrik prizes in the Arch (Prof) Architecture Programme: First Prize awarded to Mohammed Tarmahomed (for project Hambani Kahle: Re-imagining Avalon Cemetery as a Space for Social Integration); Second Prize awarded to Jonathan Melamdowitz (for project Toxic Collectives of the Mining Territory); the Third Prize was awarded to Mukhethwa Nevhutanda, who was also the winner of the prize for the Best Use of Brick (for project Toxic Collectives of the Mining Territory).
  • Covid-19 Essay student prizes: The First Prize was awarded to Alexander Maré; the Second Prize was awarded to Kady Burkshimer; and the Third Prize was awarded to Sihle Pasurayi. The following students received an honorary mention for their submission: Sarita Pillay and Miriam Maina (joint entry); Joshil Naran; Yehuda Segal; Nomonde Gwebu; Chido Muzanenhamo. The COVID-19 Call for Papers invited student and staff contributions as a documentation of immediate experiences, feelings, memories and thoughts about the impacts of the COVID-19 in SoAP  and the Wits’ community.

The Online Exhibition can be accessed under the Theory and Practice section of SoAP’s website:

The exhibition also provided the occasion for the launching of SoAP’s own Youtube Channel, where public lecture programme, student work, seminars and more, are available for viewing. 

This online exhibition has been a new journey and a collaborative process in the School.

The collective experience for both students and staff was at first unsettling and shocking. But, quickly, out of inner resilience and creativity, the students and staff rallied, experimented with different software and platforms, and got back to the business of teaching and learning. We are proud of our students’ achievements and the high standard that has been maintained despite the difficulties we have all had to face in 2020 - Professor Nnamdi Elleh (Head of School)
Since students had no access to physical sites, limited peer interaction and various technical limitations while working online, courses had to be reinvented to achieve the same learning outcomes in different ways. We are impressed with the creativity, resilience and extraordinary hard work of both staff and students that have produced what is shown here, and we congratulate them on successfully completing 2020. We invite you to look out for new talent to mentor, hard-working graduates with skills, or to get a glimpse of what Wits students are learning and achieving against the odds - Associate Professor Ariane Janse van Rensburg (Director of the Architecture Programme)
This online exhibition assists students to convey in their own words and images a key part of their journey, often under very significant constraints, and to see their work in a wider context. Their reflections add to the body of work we draw on to digest the lessons of this year and prepare for the challenges ahead - Associate Professor Sarah Charlton (Planning Programme and CUBES Associate Director)

 School of Architecture and Planning

Description of exhibition components

The Masters in Architecture (Professional) exhibition shows the graduating projects from the 2020 M.Arch (Prof) year.  The approach taken by the curators was to celebrate the students as the focus of the webpage. The students’ portraits have been rendered as a low-poly portrait version of their digitized selves as a reference to the new world that they have inhabited during the pandemic. This exhibition was curated by Dirk Bahmann and Anita Szentesi, working in close cooperation with Hilton Judin, the M.Arch Prof Studio Master.

[in] Process is an All Third Year Portfolio Document which showcases the work of the students in the Third Year Architecture and Planning studios. Students have each chosen a project that they feel best expresses their design and planning interests, with the work of Architecture and Planning students shown in an integrated way across the document. Brigitta Stone and Patricia Theron were curators, working in cooperation with Third Year Studio Masters: Sandra Felix, Melinda Silverman and Mawabo Msingaphantsi.

The Second Year Design Representation Electives exhibition, curated by Anita Szentesi and Dirk Bahman, was an attempt to hold together diverse disciplines graphically, while preserving their unique identities. The work on show includes student projects of furniture design; script-sketch-animate; mapping; and film.

The Umuzi Wokwakha exhibition, Zulu for ‘a city under construction’, showcases the Second Year Urban Design Studio in the Planning programme, with projects that explore contemporary design and environmental issues in South Africa. The studio was run over three months and tasked the students to develop an urban design spatial diary of public space and urban typologies. This exhibition was curated by Nkosilenhle Mavuso.

Also forming part of the online show, are two monographs produced as an initiative of the Campus Innovation Lab. The Wits-VITS (Vernacular Innovations in Technology and Science) monograph is a collection of written work from students in the First Year Settlements and Architectural Histories and Theories’ course. Wits-VITS, founded by Professor Nnamdi Elleh, is a research portal and a clearing house for scientific concepts, ideas, theories, and knowledge across all fields of study.

The monograph ‘Staff and Student Reflections on COVID-19: Social Distancing and Self-Isolation’, brings together the prizewinning student contributions from SoAP’s Call for Papers, as well as staff essays by Professor Alison Todes, Professor Phil Harrison, Associate Professor Margot Rubin, Sally Gaule and Sandra Felix. Both monographs were edited by Patricia Theron, with the assistance of SoAP students Hashim Tarmohamed, Ariella Gimpel, and Nicola de Canha, on graphic design and layout.

While conceptualising an overall theme for the End of Year Online Show that would guide SoAP in the design of posters and invitations, the School considered how it might portray a synthesis of multiple working environments through the graphics, representative of many students working in isolated spaces, all over the country.

Ariella Gimpel (BAS Honours student at SoAP) whose drawing formed the basis for the poster design, stated: “I think it perfectly encapsulates the year, for both Architecture and Planning, in terms of thinking about the city from a confined space, designing the physical world without the physical, and the loss of a sense of scale that we experience.”