Caesarstone Student Designer of the Year: My Wildest Architecture Dreams Came True


Caesarstone Student Designer of the Year: “My Wildest Architecture Dreams Came True!”

Hi, my name is Leon van der Westhuizen. I’m an Architecture graduate and currently doing my Master’s degree. In 2013 my wildest architecture dreams came true when I was awarded the Caesarstone Student Designer of the year title! One of the many perks of winning this huge competition was to jet off to a destination of my choosing.

Having studied ancient architecture while doing my degree, I became fascinated by ancient Roman architecture. Naturally, I decided to make the most of the opportunity and visit the places and spaces I have adored for so many years.

With my camera in one hand, a Schengen visa in the other and my design lecturer, Donald Flint, by my side, I embarked on the journey of a lifetime! Rome was the first destination of choice. Immediately after landing I found myself submerged in the historical core of the city.

While traveling to my hotel suite it felt like I was browsing through postcards of Rome with the Colloseum passing on the right and multiple traditional ice cream and coffee shops on the left. On the first day I wandered through all the typical Italian streets with stunning ancient buildings on every other street corner: from the Pantheon to
Romanesque Cathedrals, and from the Colloseum to famous fountains – the list goes on and on.

It was amazing to experience the plans and sections I have studied during my course in real life. The next day I jumped on a train and travelled all the way to Milan to partake in the Milan Design Week. There I went to visit a massive design expo called Eurocucina, where thousands of creatives come together to view the exhibition spaces of leading design companies, which showcase the latest trends. The whole experience was mind blowing because I had the honour of seeing my favourite and admired architects’ works first hand – from the humble works of Mumbai Studios to the avant-garde and deconstructive works of Zaha Hadid and Daniel Libeskiend. For me, Libeskiend’s exhibition was the absolute cherry on top!

Beyond Eurocucina and I enjoyed the greater design week in Milan and also the architectural landmarks the cosmopolitan city offered. It was interesting to compare the higher Gothic Cathedrals of Milan to the
Romanesque Cathedrals in Rome, which contrasts with the very modern and simplistic skyscrapers of the inner city. One breathtaking moment was when I saw the Last Supper fresco, done by Leonardo da Vinci. I loved ending most days by drinking a glass of wine and eating a traditional Italian pizza.

Before ending my dream adventure, I had half a day to kill. I decided to make a quick stop at Lake Como where I took a ferry to see the small town edging the lake, framed by the snowy Swiss Alps in the background. After an amazing day at Lake Como I took a bus back to Milan to catch my flight back to reality.

Personally the trip was immensely valuable, influencing my mindset as a designer and creative individual. I would love to see how the ideas and concepts used in ancient Europe can be incorporated into the contemporary South African living environment. This not only acts as inspiration for my current projects it also gave me a more informed way of approaching design. I would also like to make use of this opportunity to say thank you to Caesarstone for gracing me with the marvellous prize which enabled me to experience different cultures and architecture firsthand.

The travel bug has definately bit me now – I’m going to make sure I do more travelling in the near future to experience what the rest of the world can offer.