Building Bridges

Wits students Portia Monaheng and Dineo Mahlare work on a project in the architecture studio. Photo: Hazel Meda

ON the sports fields, Wits University and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) are arch rivals. But when it comes to construction, they’re on the same side.

First year students in the Wits School of Architecture and Planning and their UJ counterparts were challenged to design a cardboard box without using staples or glue. An egg would be placed inside the box, which would then be dropped from the top of a building. A well-designed box would protect the egg from breaking.

The twist in the challenge was that the respective teams would swap designs and then build one another’s boxes.

The joint project was organized by Wits Construction lecturer Gerald Chungu and Denver Hendricks of UJ.


Wits and UJ architecture students test their eggboxes by throwing them from the top of the John Moffat Building. Photo: Gerald Chungu

Communicating clearly

“We try to simulate what you do in construction: somebody designs and somebody else builds. Then we meet to see how successful the built object is,” Chungu said.

Student Aeron Stipanov said: “It was a learning curve for us. It showed us how the real world is; if your designs aren’t accurate, then your building will potentially kill people.”

Dineo Mahlare, a Wits student, commented on the different teaching style of each institution:

“The UJ drawings and designs were set up in a very professional way. They were neat and proper. We sort of did it in our own way. We did our own thing.”

She found the experience valuable and eye-opening.

“It shows you what you can work on to be a well-rounded architect. I learned how to present my work better just by looking at their drawings and their layout. It helped.”

Responding to questions about whether the eggboxes were successful, Chungu said: “Some were. Some broke on impact.”

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1st year architecture students prepare for the eggbox challenge. Photo: Gerald Chungu