Sunday, October 15, 2006

Contemporary African architecture musings..

I've been reading about the Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe. This 30,000sqm retail/office space uses passive cooling rather than air conditioning, using 10% of the energy of conventionally cooled buildings. The cooling system is modelled on ant-hills of the Zimbabwean savanna, with air vents pushing fresh air through the building using big fans (the accumulated hot air rising up and out through roof funnels by day, being recirculated during the cooler night hours), in combination with a high heat-absorbent exernal skin. The field of creating engineering solutions through the study of animals is called bionics - the Eastgate Centre being an excellent case study.

The architect, Mick Pearce, is a Zimbabwean architect with 33 years of projects under his belt.

It would be interesting to explore whether similar passive cooling systems could be possible in warmer, more tropical climes such as West Africa. Hybrid passive/active systems would be a start - the architectural equivalent of the Toyota Prius. A return to a more widespread use of mud architecture, common in Northern Nigeria, Mali etc would be an idea. The museum of Architecture in Jos has some excellent 1:1 replicas of traditional mud buildings, which could be the inspiration for a new contemporary mud architecture. Even in the heat of the day, the temperature inside the inner spaces of these buildings is cool, without an air-conditioning unit in site. Our dream would be to be involved in a new mud-build which demonstrates what can be done. From what I hear, there are already such projects underway in next door Accra.


kemi,  7:10 pm  

Not sure if mud buildings could survive the torrential downpours we get down south.

Anonymous,  7:24 pm  

Yes mud building could survive the torrential downpours. Some houses in are abeokuta still have mudhouses. Also ones the muds are mixed some cement, dried in the sun and they become adobe bricks. Voila you are on your way.

Anonymous,  9:44 pm  

i saw a documentary on some mud buildings in ghana, modern ones. it can be done and done well. quite beautiful.

i'd love to se a signature building akin to those in timbukto built in nigeria. i dont know if it can be done in the south

M.E. Baker 5:34 am  

We need that architectural concept for cooling large buildings here in Florida. The weather here is very similar to that of West Africa. It would keep us from having $200 air conditioning during the summer months.

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