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.
The project we are presenting, is in partnership with Femme International. This organization's mission is to provide to women and girls in developing communities essential education through workshops about female anatomy, reproductive health, essential hygiene, and menstruation; and distribution of Femme Kits. Together with Femme International, C-re-aid introduced those kits to the women in Maji Moto, a Maasai village close to Arusha (Tanzania).
The aim of this project, is to make a social impact and to improve the life of the community, especially of the women. In fact, in this village, we realized that women were forming several groups, working in micro-finances, yet no proper place where to meet and arrange their businesses. Therefore, a small infrastructure such as a Women's Center would give them the possibility to meet all together and to increase their incomes. This Women's Center would be managed by the women.
This infrastructure would include a small office where they could write, sign, and store papers and materials; a small shop where they could obtain Femme kits; and a covered open space where they could meet. This space would also be a place where they could obtain Femme's education through several workshop, personal advices or continuous training ship. We hope this could become a prototype to enable duplication of the design in different villages where Femme International will be active in the future.
For the construction of the Center, several things have been taken into account which have affected the final design:
The use of as much as possible local materials has been essential for the development of the project since, due to the low budget, the transport of materials from the city was not convenient. That is why we decided to build with a combination of stones and fire bricks. The use of fire bricks, as it's made in the village, it promotes a local economy through a local material. We also want to explore all the possibilities of this material so the building could be an example for the community of other ways of using it. However, we do realize that those bricks produce a lot of environmental damage - including illegal deforestation due to the large quantities of wood required to fire the bricks; which is why the Women’s Center 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.
The use of the local workforce has contributed to the specialization of craftsmen and to the training of young people who were learning their trade. In rural areas the job of architect does not exist, seeing as craftsmen 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, labor 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.