Concrete support

An innovative audio speaker has won the PPC Imaginarium Awards, a showcase for design and art that pushes the boundaries of work made in concrete.

Don’t underestimate cement. For a material that is known for it’s strength, it can be sculpted into surprisingly delicate and intricate forms, given a feeling of lightness, movement and modernity. This contrast of strength in material and fluidity in form can lend designs made in cement a striking individuality.

One product that transforms concrete from an everyday construction material into an aesthetic and functional statement is Concrete T L Speaker, designed by Martin Bolton and Craig Tyndall, which won the PPC Imaginarium Awards. A finalist in the industrial design category, the speaker combined concrete cement, leather and acrylic.

“For the construction of the concrete speaker we were inspired by the works of Heinz Isler and Felix Candala, who are renowned for pushing the limits of thin shell concrete structures,” said the winning designers. “The shape of the speaker horn, reminiscent of the indigenous African trumpet made of Kudu horn, carries the sound towards the audience.”

Southern African cement producer PPC launched the Imaginarium Awards in 2014 to showcase the work of young creatives pushing the boundaries of what is possible with Portland cement-based concrete. The awards spanned six categories seeking innovation in the fields of architecture, film, sculpture, fashion, jewellery and industrial design. To train artists in using this material, PPC hosted one-day workshops around the country. Category-winners were given generous cash prizes and opportunities for mentorships with thought-leaders with a further monetary prize given to the overall winner.

The awards were judged by industry professionals including architects Mokena Makeka and Profesor Ora Joubert; industrial designers Adriaan Hugo and Katy Taplin of Dokter and Misses; fashion designers David Tlale and Tiaan Nagel; jewellers Verna Jooste and Cari-Mari Wilsenach; artists Dianne Victor, Kay Potts and Ledelle Moe; and filmmakers Wessel van Huysteen and Beathur Mgoza Baker.

PPC Imaginarium director and architect Daniel van der Merwe said of Bolton and Tyndall's design: “The winning piece is not only an original approach to the functional dictates of a speaker design, but executes it in an uniquely sculptural way. This is a demonstration of the versatility of concrete as product design.”

Five of the finalists, including the ultimate winner, are shown below. A sixth finalist came from the film category. Arni and Andre Coetzee's Pas De Deux in Dust is a short film that reimagines the little-known biblical story of Lilith, a creator in a universe of cement and brick. Lilith spends her time infinitly sculpting figures, searching for a partner within her material. The film aims to challenge the traditional roles of "creator" and "creation".

Bolton and Tyndall will share the grand prize of R100 000. Each category winner received R50 000 while all the runner–ups walked away with R15 000 each. In addition to the monetary prizes, category winners were mentored by various thought leaders in their respective industries, such as trend forecaster Dion Chang.

The winners of all six categories were exhibited at Design Indaba Expo 2015.

The PPC Imaginarium exhibition is open to the public until 28 March 2015 at Youngblood Foundation Gallery, Bree St, Cape Town.



Industrial design: Martin Bolton and Craig Tyndall

The Concrete T L Speaker won the judges over for its elegantly minimal reinterpretation of an African tradition into a contemporary design solution.

Architecture: Aynada Ntsingana

Ntsingana designed a public structure and space that would fit with the style of a typical Karoo town for the Lainsburg public pool. “The idea was to create a place of community identity,” says Ntsingana. “The main attraction at the moment is the impersonal filling station. The public pool would be a place to cool off, rest in a shady space and provide space for children to play.” In winter the pool can be drained and used as a skate boarding platform and amphitheatre for community gathering.

Fashion: Bokang Lehabe

Bokang Lehabe is a young creative originally from the rural village of Ganyesa in the North West. He recently graduated with a bachelor's in fashion design from Fedisa. Lehabe’s three pieces, entitled “The Beast We Call Fashion”, use concrete to convey a subtle African aesthetic. “My work is all about how fashion consumes people and how we end up becoming it,” he says. Lehabe deigned the pieces to be tight-fitting in order to emphasise the female form. “The beast”, as Lehabe calls it, appears as a pair of wire horns and a synthetic animal-skin skirt, which is worn around the midriff on two of the pieces. Soft fabric and lace are offset by the brutality of poured concrete.

Jewellery: Chris Van Rensburg

Chris Van Rensburg founded Johannesburg-based Studio C Jewellers in 2001. Van Rensburg’s piece features a two-piece concrete cast with a filigree pattern, mounted on a stainless steel sleeve with a set band of 96 round brilliant cut diamonds. His design juxtaposes delicate design and brutal concrete. The detail of the filigree pattern also demonstrates the versatility of cement as a creative medium.

Sculpture: Mhlonishwa Chiliza

Chiliza’s piece expresses the memory of living for extended periods in a hostel. Coming from a working-class background, hostels provided Chiliza with a home. The kitchen is the most important space in a hostel, where those who live there gather to chat about social and political issues. The piece portrays a two-plate stove with an empty kettle, whose petrified surface captures the rigours of working-class life and imbues the transitory with a sense of permanence. It depicts a poignant personal story.