Due to a long history of conflict, corruption, and instability Congolese in the Anghal Collective of Ituri have been struggling for basic necessities and sustainable economic means to support civic participation and self-governance the linchpins of political stability. The Bedijo Ukungo Deo Vocational School offers an inventive redesign of the basic building unit of the brick retailored for vocational infrastructure and community self-empowerment in a DRC still plagued by corruption, social injustice, and political strife. The Bedijo School emerged from a generative collaboration with the local NGO Community Development Alliance (CDA) when we together surveyed various villages in the Anghal region of the Mahagi Territory. Drawing extensively from the collected voices through interviews
(including chiefs, community leaders, and residents) we sought to ensure that the design and implementation of The Bedijo School would respond appropriately to problems expressed by the Anghalese themselves, who would ultimately be making use of these infrastructures.
Synthesized from the interview phase, we designed a series of localized mini campuses entirely constructed from a single modular unit called the “flex brick" to offer an integrated architectural solution that would both respect traditional building techniques and supersede colonial building practices, which can ultimately extend beyond the buildings themselves and into the social fabric of the community as a whole. Like the unit of the flex brick itself, the design of the mini campuses is modular and repeatable, yet it has variability for its adaptation to surrounding environments facing rapidly changing social functions and uncertain future needs. This open-ended, ongoing process will hopefully generate architectural dialog, compliment future design, and promote new thinking around the possibility of regional revitalization of the built environment.
The Bedijo School will be the first building and prototype for the construction of a mini campus that will be built in Nyalebbe, Anghal in 2015-16. The school will follow a modular design concept that will expand outward into a complex of flexible spaces. Targeting existing nodes based on maximizing outreach, construction resources, demographics, education, etc., each local mini campus will be positioned to maximize school access and attendance for pedestrian-dependent local residents offering a community hub for empowerment and vocational training, especially for women. Though designed for stand-alone use, each campus will remain open for future phasing when growth is necessary and funds are available.
We have developed a unique type of compressed brick as a low cost/easy to manufacture solution for local trades people. Because the bricks simplicity streamlines construction skills and costs, the building methods of this project are easily learned, and thus they foster transferable trades between teachers and workers in the school forming the foundation not only for the schools infrastructure but also its pedagogy. Variability in the façade patterning maximizes diffused sunlight, assuring well lit, cool interiors, functions as a rain screen and also maintains security while eliminating glass as a costly material.
The spaceframe roof structure uses locally found metal conduit and corrugated iron sheets. Members are easy to construct and light weight, created modularly to allow for ventilation, light, and water collection. Traditionally woven sisal matts are hung below the roof structure and are manually operable for sunlight control and to create an insulative sound barrier during the rainy season.
The design is meant to inspire architectural thinking and innovative design strategies that respect traditional design techniques, supersede colonial building practices and go beyond the building and into the community. The design is modular and repeatable, but has variability for its adaptation of surrounding environments and design sensibilities. We are hopeful that this will spark further architectural design and new thinking for buildings within the region.
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