Reading: Small Scale Big Change

“To be properly understood, Modernism is not just a matter of cubist spaces but of a whole appreciation of environmental design as a holistic approach to the matter of making spaces for people to live… Modernism, as I define and practice it, includes and is based on the vital archetypal needs of human beings as individuals as well as social groups” quoted by Peter Walker and Melanie Simo, Invisible Gardens: The Search for Modernism in the American Landscape (Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1994), p.9

“Architecture can be a powerful instrument to affect social change. On a small scale, a well-designed school can positively influence individual learning and help children to identify themselves as parts of a larger community: (Lepik, 12)

“According to the United Nations, roughly one billion of the world’s population of some 6.75 billion people live in extreme poverty, with an income of less than $150 per year and limited access to clean water, education, and health care” (Lepik, 12)

Building in Society

  • Materiality – find local materials, rammed earth, close to location, sustainable, recyclable
  • Creating Spaces of Social Identity- poor communities rarely ever have a say in what is built, buildings that house either a library, school, museum, or cultural idea become very important, possible symbol (culture)
  • Teaching by Example- hands on, let people see project from beginning to end, they can take those tools to next opportunity
  • New Models for Building- looking at infrastructure and culture, connectivity; Teddy Cruz

Examples: Rural Studio, Think Tank, Teddy Cruz, UN, UW Basic, Architects Without Borders, Anna Heringer

– Taken from pages 12-22

Case Study #1:

Meti-Handmade School, Rudrapur, Bangladesh 2004-06, Anna Heringer

Material: Cob

– “clay, earth, sand and straw mixed with water that is shaped by hand or towel in layers and dried- with the hope of creating a new appreciation for this sustainable building material” (Lepkin, 23)

“She demonstrated how her approach would offer the children brighter, better-ventilated spcaes and explained the benefit of earth construction in giving children a healthier and more pleasant environment for learning. The organization also recognized the potential impact that building with earth could have for local workers and the billage as a whole, and it eagerly accepted her proposal” (Lepkin, 23)

– 3 classrooms on ground floor, 2 on upper floor

lower level made from cob, holds up lightweight bamboo structure

interior walls covered in plaster (aesthetics, lighter)

caves carved out of cob, reading rooms, play tunnels, etc

upper floor open floor plan, closed off with wood framing filled wih vertical strips of bamboo

“the bamboo offers protection from the sun while still lending a light and airy feeling to the interiors, as well as offering views of the village” (Lepkin, 24)

Anna’s classmates from Linz, Austria came and helped construct the building with a professional architect from Berlin named Eike Roswag. A few improvistions were made to the cob construction to improve its strength and durability. They introduced a layer of brick foundation with a layer of plastic over top to serve as a moisture barrier (between ground and earth walls). The walls were thickened with the implementation of more straw for increased stability. The roof with beautiful bamboo structure is extended well over the walls to protect the earthwalls from the monsoon seasons. Colors were implemented to lighten the space up through curtains and bright ceilings. Playful positioning of windows on one of the walls is meant to invite people into the space in a curious and fun way. Future plans include a school garden and teaching spcaes for older and adult students. No heavy machinery was needed for the construction of the project. All elements of building were easily constructed by humans with the help of one water buffalo that helped mix the cob.

Case Study #2:

Primary School, Gando, Burkina Faso, 1999-2001, Diebedo Francis Kere

The town is one of the poorest countries in the world with more than the majority of it people living well below the poverty line. Electricity, plumbing, and paved roads don’t exist here. Like Arusha, the town’s main source of income is based off of agriculture.¬† More than 2/3 of the adult population is illiterate, making it one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. Kere grew up here and decided to help his community after leaving for studies in Berlin. He set up an organization called School Building Clocks for Gando.

– 3 detached classrooms on one site, placed in a row

– high ceilings to compensate for capacity (50 pupils)

– hinged metal louvers in ceiling bring light across rooms

– red, adobe walls

– abundant air circulation is a main component

– corrugated metal roof sits on distinctive girders rather than the walls. concrete frame holds girders

– large overhangs to protect from the extremes: heavy rain, intense sun

Materials: adobe bricks. usual materials used are concrete block but this proves to be more expensive and hard to produce.

“Kere introduced a simple machine, powered by nothing but two people, that makes more stable, uniform bricks by forming them in a mold and then pressing them. This, together with a small amount of cement added to the adobe (roughly 6 percent), makes the bricks stronger and more uniform. The result is straighter walls and a stronger surface that better weathers the elements” (Lepkin, 34).

Building construction was all able to be done by the power of humans. Part of the program relied on the process of teaching people in the community the skill to build so they can implement this to their own lives and careers.

“The Gando model stands out as a striking example of how building techniques that are sustainable as well as appropriate to local conditions can produce architecture of far superior quality. More importantly, the facilities provide the children of Gando with a place where they can acquire the basic skills that will benefit both them and their families” (Lepkin, 35).

Works Cited:

Lepik, Andres. Small Scale, Big Change: New Architectures of Social Engagement. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2010. Print.

Reading: Building Without Borders

“Compared to pre-industrialized societies, contemporary processes of shelter creation and distribution are alienating. When people simply purchase a home, they are less likely to connect with the local ecology. Furthermore an emphasis on capital outlay limits opportunities for creative expression and community development, and people feel little responsibility for having created the place they inhabit. They are therefore are less likely to view themselves as true stakeholders in the community with an active sense of responsibility for shaping and maintaining its future” (Kennedy 7).

“Beyond basic material gain and the physical outcomes anticipated by a project, it is important to consider how any proposed project will empower local people. Who will be empowered and with what? Will everyone benefit equally, or only those who meet specific criteria? Will participants gain knowledge, skills, status, or confidence?” (Kennedy, 10).

“The harvesting of water is a key element of any sustainable housing and land use system. The more water a household is able to harvest the greater the level of food and water security. Ideally the first level of water catchment takes place on the rooftop through a gutter system that empties into a storage tank, which is then available as a high quality water source for drinking or irrigation. If there is insufficient funding for water tanks and guttering in the initial stages of construction, water flowing off the roof during the rainy season can be directed along the ground into tree plantings, or to food gardens around the house. Excess water can be directed into below-ground storage and used for irrigation during the dry times of the year” (Kennedy 19-20).

*** look up Bill Mollison and David Holmgren’s Permaculture Food Security

“Sustainable Building Criteria:

  • improve quality of life
  • be comfortable and esthetically pleasing
  • improve access to home ownership for the dispossessed and poorest members of society
  • use materials that are safe to work with
  • have minimal impact of the environment
  • be easily recycled at the end of its useful life
  • support biodiversity
  • be resilient to changing environmental and social conditions
  • be locally built, maintained, fixed, and disposed of safely
  • promote community-building processes
  • be energy- and material-efficient
  • be reusable or recyclable
  • be soft, safe, fun and healthful
  • build assets
  • be socially equitable and empowering


The Basics of Climatically Adapted Design

  • Orientation
  • Site Modification
  • Fuel Effeciency
  • Insulation
  • Weatherization
  • Thermal Mass
  • Solar Hot Water
  • Shading
  • Ventilation

“An updated saying. Give a woman a fish and she will eat for a day.” Now, “Give her a micro-loan and teach her to raise fish in an ecologically balanced way (feeding them waste products and selling both fish and fish fertilizer), and she will adapt and optimize the system through trial and error. All her neighbors will eat well, see her success, and start their own fish-farming operations. The whole region will thrive (and the World Bank will come and study your program for possible replication in other regions…)” (Kennedy 87).

“Why we don’t roof with thatch.

  • our local environment is so badly degraded that we would have to go nearly 2,500 miles to find thatch- this is not cheap
  • southern Africa lags badly on many environmental fronts: poles are still treated with creosote, making them unhealthy and a fire hazard
  • the cost of pole/thatch roof is anywhere from four to six times the cost of a metal/frame roof
  • thatch does not lend itself easily to daylighting, the fitting of PV panels, solar water heaters, or the collection of rain water. In addition the roof rats here are the size of badgers and can eventually bore through thatch
  • All told, I like corrugated iron; it is cheap, fast, and allows for the easy collection of water – a most precious resource in these parts. Moreover when you have large institutionabuildings to put up on a tight budget, it is the most economic option” (Kennedy 123).


  • Stone foundations: building with stone can be a time-consuming, highly skilled craft
  • Concrete: easy to learn, but it is susceptible to shobby building praactices, doesn’t break down quickly
  • Rubble trench: filled with large gravel with a drain to daylight or a dry well to take away water. reduces the amount¬† of use for concrete
  • Bamboo posts: sunk into the ground, raising house up into air, providing airflow underneath. can rot quickly


  • Abode: sun-dried mud bricks, dry climate use, flexible in shape
  • Cob: moist earth and straw, good for seismic areas, 6-18 inches thick walls, inexpensive, not time efficient
  • Compressed Earth Blocks: like adobes, but less water, more dense and more uniform in shape
  • Earthbags: soil-filled fabric sacks or tubes, long term unknown
  • Leichtlehm: (“light-clay”) loose straw, wood, chips, or other fibers coated with a clay slurry and tamped into forms, generally used as infill between supporting elements (post and beam)
  • Rammed Earth: great thermal mass, strength, comfort, and beauty. simple tools to build but need complex formwork that could difficult to unskilled builders
  • Wood: strong in compression and tension, easily worked. burns easily and less sustainable. scraps could be reused
  • Concrete: well-documented structural characteristics, can be used in hybrid system


  • Bamboo: grows quickly, renewable, can be used structurally or detailed
  • Thatch: use of reeds, grasses, or palm fronds, can last 60 years, time consuming, fire hazard
  • Wood: most common, easy to work with, strong in tension
  • Living roofs: blend into its environment and provide climatic stabilization, need to be on strong frame, ongoing maintenance, fire hazard, roof shouldn’t be used for drinking
  • Metal: relatively inexpensive, durable, easy to install, and lightweight, collect water, recyclable, no thermal control
  • Micro Concrete Tiles: system lends itself to local enterprise, efficient


  • Wool: excellent insulation, especially where sheer are common. can use wool clothes (recycle) in plastic bags
  • Straw: moderately effective roof insulator, mix with clay to reduce fire hazard, need strong walls
  • Cellulose: inexpensive nontoxic recycled product (from old newspapers), blown into walls/roof


  • Concrete Slab: expensive but durable; can be covered with tiles, thermal heating
  • Bricks on Sand: beautiful and easy to repair
  • Soil cement: can be made into pavers
  • Stone on sand: difficult to clean, but beautiful and durable
  • Earth: can be poured or tamped; is beautiful, soft, warm to touch, must be sealed with oil for durability, thermal qualities, can take a long time to dry
  • Wood: best for above ground floors; potential for rotting if too near ground

(Kennedy 175-189).

Works Cited:

Kennedy, Joseph F. Building Without Borders: Sustainable Construction for the Global Village. Gabriola, B.C.: New Society, 2004. Print.

Reading: The Evolution of Arusha Agriculture

“Maasai in general are often taken as a paradigm for “pure pastoralists.” Maasai culture and values, it is asserted, are uniquely related to a pastoral mode of production an dare sharply distinguished from the cultures and values of Bantu-speking farmers who live in the highlands interpresed among and surrounding Maasai pastoralists on the plains” (Spear and Nurse, 481).

“Pastoral Maasai herd exclusively, while the farmers of the highlands practice intensive, often irrigation-based, agriculture and keep little stock. Maasai practice an age-based form of social organization that unites men of the same age cross different territorial sections, while Bantu-speakers have localize descent-based systems tied to specific land holdings” (Spear and Nurse, 481).

“Living on the southwestern slopes of Mount Meru in Tanzania, they are intensive irrigation farmers who value land and the abundant crops the fertile volcanic soils produce as well as cattle” (Spear and Nurse, 482).

“What is missing from all three of these interpretations, which their common emphases on flexible modes of cultural transmission and economic adaptability, is the possibility of more dynamic processes of continuity, borrowing, and adaptation occuring to a greater or lesser extent simultaneously as a result of different historical forces at play at any given time. Thus Arusha adoption of mountain farming after they settled on Mount Meru could have been the result of their own cultural heritage as plans farmers; they may have adapted to new environmental circumstances on their own, or they may have employed a combination of all three” (Spear and Nurse, 483).

“Arusha raised sugar-cane, bananas, millet, tobacco, sweet potatoes, beans, sorghum, cassava, yams, and maize, and traded salt and honey to Chaga for iron hoes” (Spear and Nurse 484).

“Arusha thus came to serve as a vital and sustaining link between the plains and the highlands. By remaining within the pastoral cultural nexus while pursuing an uplands agricultural economy, they were able to help ensure the long-term survival of pastoralism on the plains, while at the same time, strengthen their own agricultural economy on the mountains” (Spear and Nurse, 486).

“Meru settlement on the mountain was based on the development of strong localized lineage groups, descended from the first settler, which controlled access to land and water sources, adjudicated disputes, maintained the ritual fertility of the land through appeals to ancestral spirits, and provided centralized political leadership. Arusha social organization developed very differently, adapting Maasai age-sets to serve many of the same purposes, and thus were little influenced by Meru social, political, or religious institutions” (Spear and Nurse, 487).

“There is, however, a notable exception to the general lack of influence by either language on the other concerning vocabulary associated with cultivation, where most Arusha items for agricultural crops, tools, and practices are borrowed, largely from Meru… Given that Meru were already well established o the mountain when the first Arusha arrived, Arusha lacked experience with the local environment and agriculture, and Meru and Chaga women became increasingly important in Arusha society and agriculture, it makes sense that Arusha learned how to farm from their Meru and Chaga wives and neighbors” (Spear and Nurse, 494).

*** the evolution of learning agriculture from the Meru started to change (or merge) their languages in the sense of agriculture and cultivation terms.

“These ancestors herded stock, consumed milk, meat, and blood, and cultivated and reaped grains (millet, eleusine, and whathat later, maize), grinding them into flour, cooking them as porridge, and brewing millet beer” (Spear and Nurse, 500).

“With the dispersal of the Parakuyo and subsequent settlement of Arusha at Arusha Chini south of Mount Kilimanjaro, Arusha adopted several new varieties of bananas grown by neighboring Chaga-speakers, further expanding their repertoire of high crops. These processes continued with their settlement after 1830 on the slopes of Mount Meru, where they acquired a much greater range of banana varieties, several new highland crops (sweet potatoes, yams, and possibly several species of legumes), and a number of new tools (diggest sticks, sickles, two kinds of hoe, pestles, and adzes) from their Meru neighbors, thus continuing an ongoing process of agricultural development that had become successively more diversified and adapted to local environments as they moved south through Kenya and northeastern Tanzania to their final home on Mount Meru” (Spear and Nurse, 501).

Works Cited:

Spear, Thomas, and Derek Nurse. “Maasai Farmers: The Evolution of Arusha Agriculture.” The International Journal of African Historical Studies 25.3 (1992): 481-503. Web. 27 Oct. 2010. <;.