In the fall of 2011 three architecture students from NTNU travelled to Niafourang, a small coastal village in the Casamance region of Senegal, to design and build a Youth Center.
The population of Niafourang is approximately 300 inhabitants. The village is very poor and people generally live hand to mouth. Locals harvest rice from fields and fish from the river. The region is lush with vegetation due to its tropical climate. There is a high unemployment rate and many young people leave Niafourang to find work elsewhere.
December 2010 we got in touch with Hilde Huus-Hansen. Hilde leads a non-profit organization; Friends of Niafourang, that works to improve conditions for local youth and create job opportunities in the village. She was looking to build a Youth Center in Niafourang that would include a computer room/library and a larger multi-purpose room. The intention was to create opportunities, jobs and development in the village. An important aspect of the project was to involve the local community in both the building and planning stages, in order to create a sense of ownership and pride in the resulting building.
Work started shortly after our arrival in Niafourang and lasted an intense 10 weeks. There is no electricity in the village so apart from the use of a battery powered drill, no electrical devices where used. Planning and building There was great enthusiasm surrounding the project and the entire village partook in volunteer work. This was entirely essential for the completion of the building in the limited timeframe and very important for the buildings future.
We became close with many of the locals that partook in building the Youth Center. For the first time we had the opportunity of being directly involved with the future users of the building. This made us very aware of the consequences of our design decisions in addition to making the work feel meaningful.
The walls are built using blocks of compressed sand and a small amount of cement. The blocks were hand-pressed using a local machine with sand shoveled from a nearby ditch. Windows are positioned low on the walls with deep frames, so they can be used to sit in. Steel brackets were custom welded in a nearby village and hold the roof construction. The corrugated aluminum roof juts out beyond the walls to prevent rain from entering the building and creates shady areas to relax. The entire roof is lifted to allow air to pass through. Underneath the protruding roof, a concrete belt surrounds the building creating a shady platform. The roof extends to include a second floor outside the walls of the multi-purpose room. The second floor is accessible by an outdoor ladder and functions as an extension of the library/computer room or the multi-purpose room. Angled wood planks serve as blinds, preventing both rain and direct sunlight.
The Youth Center is already in use and will hopefully contribute to positive development in Niafourang. We hope the 10 week long building and planning process has left the local community as inspired as it has left us.
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