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A (non)temporary "place called home". Social low-tech architecture in times of crisis

24 of January '24
w skrócie
  1. Three architecture students from the Opole University of Technology, Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda, made it to the finals of the international competition Nigeria: Home After Crisis, aimed at designing housing solutions for victims of armed conflict.
  2. Their project focuses on creating low-cost modular housing that provides security, privacy and promotes social ties among those affected by the housing crisis.
  3. The project is based on modular housing, built from self-made bricks. The design allows for modification and expansion.
  4. The key idea was to create a space that would not only provide shelter, but also a sustainable and friendly living environment.
  5. For more interesting information, visit the home page of the A&B portal.

Poles in the finals of the competition „Nigeria: Home After Crisis”.
In the jury Alejandro Aravena!

Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka and Maciej Szweda, architecture students of the Opole University of Technology, were shortlisted for the final of the international Young Architects Competitions—Nigeria: Home After Crisis. Their project is a low-budget, modular housing designed for people affected by armed conflicts in Nigeria. The students focused on providing security, privacy and promoting social connection, using modular frame houses made of wood, straw and locally manufactured bricks.

Violence has been escalating in northeastern Nigeria since 2015, causing a massive housing crisis. By 2023, an estimated 3.5 million people were homeless or living in precarious conditions. This problem requires immediate action to provide sustainable, long-term solutions. In this context, the project Nigeria: Home After Crisis, a competition supported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the UN Migration Agency and funded by the Nigerian Humanitarian Fund (NHF). The goal of the international challenge was to design a low-cost, modular, expandable social housing for populations affected by armed conflict.

Strefa publiczna projektu

Students from the Opole University of Technology were shortlisted for the final YAC competition

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

How to recreate identity, feelings, happy memories through architectural design?—this was the question the organizers asked, addressing it to young designers. Participants were asked to conceptualize an object that can alleviate suffering and offer a welcoming environment, whose residents can feel safe and start their lives anew. A place they can call home.

Opole University of Technology students on the final list

The jury of the competition included: Alejandro Aravena (ELEMENTAL), Robert Piper (United Nations), Raul Pantaleo (TAMASSOCIATI), Tosin Oshinowo (Oshinowo Studio), Anna Heringer (Anna Heringer Architect), Anupama Kundoo (Anupama Kundoo Architect), Carolin Cordero-Scales (IOM), Filiep Decorte (Un-Habitat), Ugochi Daniel (IOM), Abdu Usman (NIA), Ruqayyatu Bashir Tukur (NIA). Three grand prizes were awarded(First Prize went to the IMAGINI(NG) project, a team composed of Temitope Akinsiku, Victor Igene, Hauwa Abdulkadir, Emmanuel Etim, Abubakar Ibn Abubakar), four gold awards, ten honorable mentions, and a list of thirty finalists was announced. It was on the final list, as the only one from Poland, that the project of Opole University of Technology students Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka and Maciej Szweda was included.

Od strony ulicy w projektowanym obiekcie sklep i strefa spotkań

On the street side of the designed building there is a store and a meeting area

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

security and creating ties

One of the main objectives of the Polish team was to create a space that provides security and privacy, values that are so difficult to find in temporary assumptions for refugees. At the same time, the organization of the buildings in such a way as to enable social interaction and the creation of neighborhood bonds was a key issue.

Rzut projektowanego budynku

projection of the designed building

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

The design area was divided by the students into several zones that interpenetrate each other—a private one serving as the primary residential unit, equipped with a place for commerce, and a gazebo called zaure. This gazebo seamlessly introduces the house space into a semi-private zone intended for neighborhood gatherings. The last is the public zone, where the authors planned to locate a building or a complex of public buildings (school, religious place, health center). The function of the buildings would depend on the needs and preferences of the residents. The whole project forms this urban unit possible to copy and combine into larger layouts.

Idea pomysłu i diagram funkcjonalny

idea idea and functional diagram

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

modular apartment houses

The students opted for a skeletal construction of the houses, which will facilitate transportation, construction and eventual demolition. The structures were made of modules, allowing for modification. Looking from the street, the functional layout of the house is formed by: a store and a meeting place extending beyond the limited sector dedicated exclusively to the householders. In the deeper part are the field kitchen, children's and parents' bedrooms and toilets. The modules housing these functions are staggered, creating several additional outdoor covered common spaces.

Around the house we distinguish two zones. A clean zone occupying most of the plot—intended for communal spending, cooking and games. The zone serving the so-called dirty zone, where cattle are raised and the rainwater recovery tank is stored.

Przekrój B-B i wykorzystane materiały

B-B section and materials used

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

self-made brick

Another important aspect of the project was the choice of material. The organizers' slogan was—houses, not shelters.

We were to provide durability and security without a sense of temporariness, at the same time the development should be low-budget. We chose brick as the main building block—an expensive material, but only if we can't manufacture it ourselves. Hence the idea to design in the semi-public zone furnaces for self-burning bricks, which over time, after performing their task, would turn into gazebos for the local community, the authors explain.

Projekt studentów Politechniki Opolskiej znalazł się na liście finałowej konkursu YAC

Bricks are produced in kilns, which over time are transformed into gazebos

© Dominik Łojas, Dominik Puchałka, Maciej Szweda

Such spaces create neighborhood ties while creating a unique identity for the place of residence. The architecture of the stoves refers directly to the organic buildings used by some tribes of Nigeria. They have been contrasted with simple, minimalist residential buildings. Our concept creates a place that refugees will be able to call home. A space that is safe, sustainable, geared towards building neighborly ties and refers to the local climate and materials," the students conclude.

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