Mr Philip Briel

Student spotlight details

Philip Briel discovered the meaning of sustainability with the Master's in Sustainable Urban Development, informing his practice as an architect for a brownfield development designed to transform an area cut off from the economic hub of Cape Town, South Africa.

'My earlier work as an architect revolved solely around the design of high-end residential projects in affluent areas of South Africa. Many of these residential developments in South Africa (and the world) trade on the so-called green ticket.

'It was only through my education in Sustainable Urban Development at the University of Oxford that I came to truly understand the meaning of sustainability and began to question the quality of my input as an architect and contributor to sustainable development.

'Prior to graduating (and partially because of my studies) I was offered a position as an architect and urban designer on a degraded, brownfield site in the heart of one of Cape Town's most notorious townships.

'My involvement and exposure to the 'other' side of my city was a true eye opener. It lead to me basing my dissertation research within the township of Phillippi and my grassroots research has contributed majorly to the process of executing my design work in the area. It has had an added benefit for my client as my research has reached beyond just architecture.

'An understanding of the social dynamics of the area was most helpful, not just to me, but also to my clients The Bertha Foundation, in terms of making many other, non-design related decisions. The project, Philippi Village, is currently featuring as a one of the preferred showpieces for the World Design Capital 2014 event, hosted by Cape Town this year. None of this would have materialised had I not decided to embark on studying towards the MSc in Sustainable Urban Development.

'Further, the weeks taught at the Prince's Foundation for Building Community in London, with which the MSc in partnered, have had the added benefit of providing me with enough fundamental knowledge in terms of place-making to progress from architecture to urban design. This has allowed me to partake in the design of a small regional urban node, in a highly sensitive environment of historical significance.

'These two examples indicate the breadth of diverse knowledge gained through the MSc, that allows a practitioner like myself to comfortably operate in two very different environments.

'Being exposed to the academic world of the University Of Oxford, mid-career, has been an excellent investment indeed, and has inspired me to continue studying further.'

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