University of Pretoria: UP architecture lecturer takes top spot in global abstract writing contest

A University of Pretoria (UP) architecture lecturer has won the World Building Congress (WBC) 2022 abstract competition. Karen Botes’s submission was chosen out of 900 abstracts submitted to the contest, which challenged applicants to write a 300-word abstract that relates to building for the future.

Hosted by the International Council of Research and Innovation in Building and Construction, the triennial World Building Congress is an effort to connect the international building community to discuss their latest research. The WBC2022 event’s focus was on “making our world a better place to live for future generations”.

“I feel extremely blessed, honoured and grateful that my abstract was accepted and selected as winner of the competition,” Botes says. “I thoroughly enjoy my work, and highlights such as this motivate me to perform better and make a difference to our society and environment.”

Her abstract aligns with the literature review for her PhD study in Landscape Architecture, the title of which is ‘An efficiency analysis of selected traditional African vegetable species and modular living wall systems for food security for Gauteng, South Africa’. “I am investigating the utilisation of a selection of traditional African vegetables in two prototypes of locally produced modular living wall systems for food production in South African urban environments,” Botes explains. “Winning the prize means that I will have to deliver an exceptional paper and presentation as a representative of UP; the Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology [EBIT]; and the Department of Architecture.”

She adds that the University has been a strong supporter of her research. “The Department of Research and Innovation is a major contributor of assisting with research for early-career academics; they do this through training workshops and writing retreats. Management at the Future Africa Institute, and grants from Innovation Africa and the University Capacity Development Programme made my research possible. This enabled me to construct and analyse two living wall prototypes with traditional African vegetable species on the Future Africa campus.”

Botes’s career in landscape architecture started years ago. “I started my career in local government, after which I founded and managed a micro-enterprise specialising in landscape architecture and environmental impact assessment in Gauteng for 20 years. I completed many projects in South Africa, varying from master planning and ecological restoration on a macro scale to urban parks, piazzas, residential estates and gardens on a micro scale.”

She has worked on – and been rewarded for – numerous projects throughout her career. “Highlights include working on Menlyn Maine in Pretoria, the first green precinct in South Africa; this included the precinct’s Nedbank, Regus, BMW, Gems and Time Square buildings. I have also completed several other green-star projects as principal landscape architect, including the Little Falls Lifestyle Centre in Wilgeheuwel – which received awards of excellence from the Institute of Landscape Architecture Southern Africa and the South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) – and FNB Ferndale in Randburg, which won a SALI award.”

Botes is also this year’s winner of the EBIT Teaching & Learning Award, and has built a teaching and learning collaboration with Dr Adriana Botha, former head education consultant of the EBIT Faculty, through which she hopes to continue with research relating to online experiential learning in the Department of Architecture.

As for her future ambitions, Botes says: “I hope to strengthen my collaborations at UP, contribute to research in the Architecture Department and EBIT, and improve South African urban environments by addressing food security and malnutrition.”