Cultural Collage

Arusha Gardens

Thesis Update

Ali Price

Thesis Studio

Spring 2011



Original Thesis Statement:


The intent is to use architecture to cultivate social growth, opportunity, and prosperity. I propose an architectural process that achieves this by involving the community (people and culture) of Arusha, Tanzania in the design process, construction phase, and continually through the activities and relationships that exist in and around the built structures.



New Focus:


The intent is to use architecture to cultivate social growth through program and design. I propose to explore the program to establish an efficient prototype then test it on Arusha, Tanzania by infusing culture, collaboration, and most importantly cultivation.


Exploration of the program will consist of research of tested and theoretical prototypes. Four levels will be defined: shipped containers, kit-o-parts, mixed, built on site. Finding the appropriate adaptation of the prototypes will have to allow for cultivation to transcend into the construction. To emphasize the importance of the community, the prototype will be adjusted to allow for the infusion of people and their environment into the plan. Construction methods will be able to be performed by community members and materiality will reflect its environment.



Key Terms to Explore: community, culture, environment, sustainability, adaptability, polyvance, prototype, social growth, component, linkage, infuse, connector, catalyst


Programs Three Cultivators: dwelling, healing, and learning with social implications connecting the three programs.


Element that Melds Program with Site: Cultivation (people, climate, topography, culture, activities, etc)




Proposed Schedule:


(January 24–30)

Week One:


  • design concept/ strategy (diagram)
  • precedent study once focus is reached
  • meet with Maire, Ralph, and David individually


(January 31- February 6)

Week Two:


  • precedent studies put into book layout
  • plan studies
  • diagram plan ideas
  • group meeting Tuesday at 10:30



(February 7-13)

Week Three:


  • diagram plans
  • spatial relationships/ organization
  • infuse activities/ circulation/ private vs public
  • have group meeting (REVIEW)


(February 14-20)

Week Four:


  • plans, sections, elevations
  • attempt to turn plans into real building (three dimensional)
  • test three very opposing spatial concepts



(* February 21-27)

Week Five:


  • material studies
  • construction methods (diagram process, assembly, transport, resources, etc)
  • mock-up facade (aesthetic) variations through materiality



(February 28- March 6)

Week Six:


  • site studies/ analysis
  • talk to Austin about photographs
  • group meeting (REVIEW)



(March 7- 13)

Week Seven:


  • place on site, adapt
  • test plan and infuse culture, climate, and social activities (cultivation)
  • site model with building



(March 14-20)

Week Eight:


  • Spring Break!!


(March 21-29)

Week Nine:


  • revisit prototypes
  • precedent studies (prototypes, construction, program, theory)
  • research any missing links



(March 30- April 3)

Week Ten:


  • develop design
  • physical model
  • update book with current research, precedents, design processes
  • group meeting (REVIEW)


(April 4-10)

Week Eleven:


  • design development
  • book development


(April 11-17)

Week Twelve:


  • research
  • design development
  • book development
  • group meeting (REVIEW)



(April 18-24)

Week Thirteen:


  • design development
  • book development
  • final site model




(April 25- May 1)

Week Fourteen:


  • design development
  • book development
  • final building model
  • print boards



(May 2-8)

Week Fifteen:





The proposed schedule requires four group meetings/ reviews then a final review. Individual meeting will be conducted each week (or every other) to seek additional guidance.







This website shows a steel shipping container that has been turned into an internet cafe. It speaks of it;s connectivity as well as efficiency. This is located in Arusha, Tanzania.


“I was really impressed with the finish work in these units. To be honest, when I first heard I’d be shooting internet cafés built from converted steel shopping containers, I didn’t have very high expectations. I love the prefab structure idea, but a shipping container?! That can’t be good. But I was so wrong! These have insulated and sheet-rocked walls, recessed halogen overhead lighting, air conditioning, comfortable chairs and of course wickedly fast and reliable 3G internet connections. One savvy entrepreneur in Arusha even made room for a small Pepsi branded refrigerator that he sold cold soft drinks from. Brilliant!”




This website shows a plan prototype that has been adjusted to accommodate a community in South Africa.


“Through the use of legos as a visualization tool students were able to communicate their feelings about hospitals and schools in their communities.  I identified a need for a sense of security, cultural pride and eradication of the impersonal hospital environment as important principles to incorporate into a new building prototype.”


“Presently the conceptual design will be used as a tool to help Zimisele fundraise for their community programs and building fund.  Through the use of local building materials and methods the construction of the building can generate job opportunities for Umlazi residents”




The project above is a competition winner that utilizes containers for the architecture’s structure and is filled with sustainable contraptions such as water tanks and other essential “western” supplies. The process is one of many phases (phases integration). During this process the containers are adjusted to suit the vernacular (mimicking assembly and aesthetics) then is applied with different tactics to fight against the spread of AIDS through schools, community centers, and clinics.

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.

Precedent: Conceptual Plans

These are two floor plans of a conceptual design for Feed the Children. The size, program, and scale of these drawings are very similar to the Arusha Health and Education Center.