As seen on DesignBoom. As part of the One Heart Foundation Eco Village international design competition 2016, trans-disciplinary studio traffic presents its shortlisted project entry for a learning community in Kenya. The proposal demonstrates the impact a good design can have on children’s quality of life as well as the role of architecture in providing nurturing environments for abused and poor families.
Traffic‘s study of architecture in Kenya has revealed a discernible lack of contemporary exemplars, despite many traditional precedents and building. Designers attempt to integrate this project in the discourse surrounding the legitimacy, identity and possible direction for an architectural culture that critically extends the ethos of indigenous construction – ones emerging from a grasp of materiality, climate and technique. In that sense, the proposal draws from a dynamic reading of the site and context.
The learning community challenges traditional education by introducing several ideas pertinent to pedagogical models and environments. These are demonstrated by engaging with multiple hierarchies simultaneously. They include indoor /outdoor educational hubs, formal and self-directed learning, scalable spaces (for group activities or lectures), and breakout zones with habitable circulation throughout primary and secondary schools. All of them amplify a ‘between-ness’ and intersection of activities. While beneficial to the entire cohort, the program primarily addresses the low attendance rates of local children by encouraging new teaching methods and frameworks inhabit the building in various formats.
The language and articulation of surfaces is robust, realised via an innovative use of resilient local material. The location of buildings maintains visual connectivity between the various programs, yet still enables a sense of autonomy and privacy for each. The sequencing and transition of external lanes and courts recall the alleys of incremental settlements, boring through primary and high schools with their smooth continuous edge cast against the staggered arrangement of classrooms.
The studio also experiments with fluid surfaces and geometries, mathematically generating a sequence of lines and potentials. These are mapped through a close analysis of the site, specificities of the brief and response to existing tree cover. Indeed, the structures and open spaces organize themselves across and around nodes of vortices in a tessellated design of ‘lines of force’ reacting to the presence and intensity of other focal points. The final effect develops spatial adjacencies and internal relationships between programs or define territories and boundaries.
Homes also reflect traditional settlement patterns by extending the idea of a village through a series of domestic spaces. Residences are deconstructed into clustered rooms around individual courtyards, in a pergola-like framework that shades walkways and merges patches of living areas. Façades can be read as a series of ribbon walls set within the site’s dense foliage. The black and white surface along the site boundary evokes tribal patterns and Kenyan illustrations, abstracted through a pixelation of brickwork. Such designs amplify spatial depth and convey a sense of rhythm.
Ideas of environmental and social sustainability are embedded in the project through passive techniques. For example, the deep external walls of the building are used as insulation for thermal mass. This also features as shading for learning spaces and seating, where windows are extruded into the surfaces. The separation of buildings channel wind while providing shade to the laneways and roofs collect rainwater that is harvested on site. The primary material for construction is local brick, one that can sustain local communities through sourcing and construction of the project. A critical aspect of sustainability is a continuous engagement with the local community, skills and crafts.
LOCATION: Kakamega County, Kenya
DESIGN TEAM: Ian Nazareth, Venkatesh Natarajan, Temitope Adesina, Winston Shu You