Studio FH Architects has designed a settlement for eighteen families in Gahinga, Uganda, for free, as part of their pro bono program. Built for and with a marginalized Batwa group, people living in poverty and destitution ever since their eviction from the forest, the 20 sqm structures now provide a new home for over 100 people.
The settlement occupies 10 acres of land, donated by the Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust, and utilises materials donated by volcanoes safaris and guests of their nearby Mount Gahinga Lodge. Uganda-based Studio FH has designed and supervised the building of 18 houses, with a floorplan based on a model house built by members of the Batwa group using branches and grass. The home’s layouts vary slightly, but they all have a covered veranda for cooking, a small common room and tiny bedrooms, while they are built using rubble stone for foundations and eucalyptus poles with a bamboo grid and earth plaster for the walls. Roofs are made of metal sheets with a papyrus layer above.
The placement of houses was done ‘on the go’ by the builders themselves, who were encourage to respond to trees, rocks, and other features, and to avoid verandas facing the strong winds coming from the volcanoes. This ‘spontaneous’ village layout sees the houses kept tightly spaced for wind protection and the space available for farming maximized, while over time, and with the help of trees, it will create comfortable public spaces and niches. On the slopes of a ravine, two small buildings accommodate latrines, solving the issue of lack of proper sanitation and achieving a dignified and healthy environment.
Near the main access of the settlement, a new community centre of about 100 sqm has been built. The dome-shaped structure is inspired by a traditional, light-weight forest dwelling of the Batwa made of branches and covered by grass. The multi-purpose space can be used for assemblies, dance performances, adult education and other uses. It is made of eucalyptus poles painted with recycled engine oil, galvanized metal sheets, papyrus roof cover, translucent sheets for doors and windows, and grass mats for the ceiling. The structure has a total height of six meters and features two garage-like doors that can be swung open to increase its size.
LOCATION: Gahinga, Uganda
CLIENT: Volcanoes Safaris Partnership Trust
SERVICE PROVIDED: Architecture (pro-bono)
ARCHITECTURAL TEAM: Felix Holland with Marco Cestarolli and Philip Matovu
OTHER CONSULTANTS: Aquila Gallery (structural engineer, pro-bono)
CONTRACTOR: Volcanoes Safaris’ in-house construction team with community support
GROSS FLOOR AREA: 480 sqm
PHOTOGRAPHS: Will Boase Photography and Craig Howes (drone photo)
AS SEEN ON: Designboom