ClientFemme International, Majimoto council
Team ProjectNancy Arbogast, Laia García, Samantha Welby, Msafiri Mollel
Group of local masonsEmmanuel Miaroni, Isaya Mollel, Julias Raphael
Text description provided by the architects. Vernacular architecture in Tanzania is quickly disappearing due to modern influences. Years ago Maasai were forced into sedentary lifestyle after living as nomads for many generations.
Construction is changing and the search for more sustainable techniques is essential. The traditional houses built with wooden sticks and mud are being replaced by fired brick constructions, since these are longer lasting and easier to maintain. Mud is very sensitive to rain and requires a lot of maintenance. Unfortunately, the new building materials produce a lot of environmental damage. This includes illegal deforestation due to the large quantities of wood required to fire the bricks. This is why the Women’s Centre has been built, as part of a master plan which includes the planting of trees adapted to the climate as well as raising awareness of the importance of doing this.
Designed in collaboration with Femme International, a humanitarian organisation that teaches workshops about sexual education and personal hygiene to girls and women, the Women’s Centre is intended to be the reference point for all necessities of women from the village. At the same time it serves as a meeting place where different groups of women can store goods and organise their meetings.
The ideas for the project were born out of several meetings with different groups of local people and included a meeting area that is protected from the rain and sun. This can accommodate about 50 women, with simple and comfortable seats made out of stone. From the outside area you have access to a small office, a storage space and a shop which the women can manage themselves and which could generate new labour and economic opportunities.
For the construction of the Centre several things have been taken into account which have affected the final design:
The use of local materials has been essential for the development of the project since, due to the low budget, the transport of materials from the city is not convenient. At the same time it has been very interesting to work with the raw materials available in nature. It has also contributed to the improvement of the local economy.
The use of the local workforce has contributed to the specialisation of fundis (construction supervisors) and to the training of young people who are learning their trade. In rural areas the job of architect does not exist, seeing as the fundis are the only ones in charge of all the required work. That way the new techniques are embedded in their common knowledge and they can continue to be developed on subsequent construction sites.
The simplicity of the design is an important feature for the inhabitants of the village as it allows them to replicate certain aspects of it in their own homes with few resources and materials, such as the stone benches that surround the meeting space or the safe and resourceful shop window.
The building was completed with a budget of 2100 euros, including logistics, labour and materials. It was built in 17 work days by a group of 5 people, of which one was a construction supervisor, two were bricklayers and two were student architects.
The aim of this project is to enthuse input from both students of architecture and related faculties. Students can dedicate their summer to being trained as architects and help to build communities and related faculties can create programs of international cooperation. This allows students to develop their skills.
Through C-re-aid in Tanzania you can participate in a project of your own in the company of a student from the Faculty of Architecture in Dar es Salaam.