Architecture firm Ingvartsen Architects has turned their gaze towards “cultural exchange architecture”—not with the aim of exploring identity or experimenting with aesthetics, but with a practical purpose in mind: to minimize the spread of diseases. The Magoda Project combines Asian elements with traditional rural African building methods in the village of Magoda, in the Tanga region of Tanzania, taking shape in the form of eight prototype homes. The design goes to show that cultural exchanges in design and architecture can make great contributions towards problem solving for a humanitarian purposes, not only to improve health and hygiene, but also comfort and happiness.
Many traditional low-cost homes in rural Africa use mud or brick walls due to their high thermal mass, allowing the materials of the buildings to absorb heat during the day, and release heat during the night, keeping the temperature of the house comfortable and cool. Usually, this effect is amplified by using small windows, and as few of them as possible, if any are used at all. The Tanga region is located on the hot and humid coast of Tanzania, making these traditional building systems effective in achieving their purpose.
However, the disadvantage of these buildings is that they provide minimal airflow, due to the thick walls with few openings, as well as limited cooking areas or sanitary water supplies. The combination of these effects can create a hotspot for diseases, such as Malaria, in spaces where people spend a significant amount of their time: the home. Ingvartsen Architects have worked with local engineers, laborers, doctors and sociologists to combine Asian building elements with traditional African building methods, resulting in buildings that still utilize local materials, but maximize airflow. The aims of this design process are to prevent people's living environment from fostering diseases, and to create a comfortable microclimate in the homes.
Three different materials have been used to build the facades of eight houses, in single or double stories: bamboo, shade nets and timber louvers. The advantage of these typically Asian elements is the possibility for cross-ventilation through the openings in the materials, while still using other materials with a high thermal capacity, such as brick and concrete, to serve as outdoor kitchen spaces and elevated platforms that prevent the houses from flooding. This optimized combination of the two building styles improves the hygiene and wellbeing of the local inhabitants, demonstrating how innovative solutions can come from interchanging cultural knowledge.
Ingvartsen Architects are also using this cultural exchange as a research opportunity, evaluating the effectiveness of the different microclimates that will result from the various materials and building designs, as well as the efficiency of insect screens that cover all open windows. Their aim is to work with the local community leaders and important stakeholders to increase the acceptance of new design techniques and expand the architecture, minimizing diseases on a broader scale.
Breaking barriers between cultural design methods is shown in the Magoda Project to produce utilitarian solutions that advance social and environmental sustainability, improving the quality of life of people who may not have access to different cultural formulas. Hopefully this evolution will continue to lead us towards new and experimental architecture, where social development and wellbeing carry on as the driving forces behind our designs.