Designing his own future

Elao Martin has received a regional award in Johannesburg and will represent his university later this year in a national competition.

22 January 2019 | Education

Tunohole Mungoba

Elao Martin, a 24-year-old architecture masters’ degree graduate from the University of Johannesburg, is the regional winner of the Corobrik Architectural Student of the Year Award, which honours the best masters’ level students in South Africa, based on their final thesis and/or dissertations.

Martin received R10 000 and will be among eight young architects from major universities around the country who will be recognised for their talent and innovation throughout this year.

The winners of each regional competition will then go head-to-head for the national Architectural Student of the Year Award and prize money of R70 000. The national winner will be announced in Johannesburg on 8 May.

“The award has been running for 32 years and my masters’ thesis titled ‘Re-imagining Kitintale's landscape through clay brick making’, won the regional Corobrik award,” he said.

Kitintale is situated in Kampala, Uganda.

“I will represent the University of Johannesburg at the national awards against the other South African universities' top students later this year in Johannesburg,” Martin said.

Born in Anamulenge village in northern Namibia, Martin was raised by his single mother in Windhoek.

“I completed my secondary education at Concordia College in Windhoek, before beginning my studies in architecture at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (Nust), where I obtained bachelors and honours degrees. I then relocated to South Africa to pursue a masters’ degree in architecture at the University of Johannesburg’s prestigious Graduate School of Architecture,” he tells The Zone.

According to Martin, he has always been passionate about architecture, long before he knew about the profession’s existence and this showed through his hobbies of model-making and drawing as a young child.

“I hope my award will attract the interest of top architecture firms in Namibia and South Africa, possibly even further beyond. After completing the required training and statutory examinations to register as a professional architect, I hope to make a positive mark on the building environment,” he said.

“I also want to work to create an international reputation in order to contribute to the export of Namibian skills and services, and potentially create job opportunities for other young Namibians in the field.”

According to Martin, the biggest challenges he faced during his journey were the same faced by most young people pursuing a career in architecture, such as the high costs of education, and more recently, the negative growth in the economy.

“This will mean fewer opportunities for graduates and young professionals. I do, however, look to the future with optimism and look forward to a fulfilling and rewarding career in the field, for myself and others.”

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