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Zambia's Sustainable Development Center project in the finals of an international competition

24 of April '23

Students of the Faculty of Architecture at the Warsaw University of Technology: Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko and Magdalena Stefaniuk designed a Sustainable Development Center that could be built in Zambia. Their easy-to-follow idea, based on a circular plan and incorporating the use of local materials, made it to the finals of an international architectural competition—Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp: A Sustainable Development Center in Zambia.

The idea for a Sustainable Development Center in Zambia

The competition was organized by the Archstorming platform in cooperation with PROVS AC and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. As the rules read—Zambia has been accepting refugees since 1966. The reason was the outbreak of the Angolan revolution against Portugal, which spread eastward, forcing people to flee in search of refuge precisely in Zambia. Nearly 60 years later, the country continues to welcome refugees, of whom 65,000 are Congolese and 20,000 are Angolans. Currently there are about 105,000 people in camps and settlements. Since the camps were established, several NGOs have been actively working to establish community development programs—they work in conjunction with the UNHCR and the Zambian government.

Mayukwayukwa Refugee Camp competition video

© Archstorming

The competition task was to design a new Sustainable Development Center in Africa's oldest refugee settlement, Mayukwayukwa. The basis was to focus on the use of local and sustainable materials and simple construction techniques that refugees could easily replicate when building their own homes. They sought a building form that could become a model for the entire community.

Thenew Sustainability Center was to have three main functions: space for volunteers, staff and members of NGOs; a place to hold workshops and courses; and support for local authorities in the implementation of various programs. The assigned design plot was 120 ×120 meters, and the program was to include: six bedrooms for volunteers, three classrooms/multipurpose rooms, an office, a kitchen with a dining area, bathrooms, an orchard and a small farm, and several spaces for outdoor activities.

Projekt Centrum bazuje na planie koła. Założenie widoczne z lotu ptaka wraz z zagospodarowaniem terenu

The center's design is based on a circular plan. The premise as seen from the bird's eye view, along with the landscaping

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

project from Poland in the finals of the competition

The works submitted for the competition were evaluated by a jury consisting of: Charles Newman (Unfrastructure Desgin, United States), Adi Kumar (Ndifuna Ukwazi, South Africa), Foolad Khan (UNHCR, Zambia), Justin Munyaka (UNDP, Zambia), Iván Vidal (DESIGNTHROPO), Claudia López, Gerardo Acosta, Aranzazu Tapia (PROVS A.C., Mexico).

Centrum Zrównoważonego Rozwoju w Zambii, schemat kształtowania kompleksu

Center for Sustainable Development in Zambia, schematic diagram of the complex's design

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

The competition was won by a work by a team from Switzerland consisting of: Alexander Heilig, Steffen Knab. The jury also awarded second and third prizes, two special mentions and ten honorable mentions. The list of finalists for the competition was also announced, and it included a project from Poland by Warsaw University of Technology students Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk and Karolina Michalak.

Widok na wewnętrzy dziedziniec

View of the inner courtyard

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

greenery and education in the center

The design by PW students is based on a circular plan with an inner green courtyard, creating an intimate space for the community. The greenery of the patio interrupts the sequence of buildings, connecting to the designed orchard. Keeping in mind the existing vegetation, the authors located the Center so as to interfere as little as possible with the local flora and preserve as many existing trees as possible.

Rdzeń obiektu - kuchnia

the core of the facility—the kitchen

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

The core of the facility is the kitchen located in the center, which connects the teaching and private parts. In the northern part, on the side of the kitchen, there are three cottages intended for volunteers and staff of the facility. The first building south of the courtyard is a pre-existing facility there, which was enlarged with a bathroom area and adapted to new educational functions. Next on the site are two buildings with educational classrooms—designed for flexible instruction. In the larger of the two, the students used a system of movable partitions, making it possible to adapt the room to the needs of the users. Directly behind the teaching buildings is the main entrance to the complex, separated by the last building—the office.

local materials and simple workmanship

In the landscaping, the authors included field circles that can be used as orchards or animal breeding areas. In addition, a short distance from the kitchen are circular gardens for growing vegetables.

Centrum Zrównoważonego Rozwoju w Zambii, rzuty i przekroje

Zambia Sustainability Center, plans and sections

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

In the project, the students used only local materials and focused on simplicity of construction. The main material used in the construction of the walls is brick produced on site by volunteers. The structure of the building is made up of wooden trusses based on poles.

Due to the specific climate, an important aspect of the design is the building's thermal performance. To ensure a constant exchange of air, we used a system of movable blinds in the doors and windows. In addition, we placed a special membrane under the ceiling, which provides adequate thermal insulation and protection against insects, the authors add.

Wnętrze sali lekcyjnej

Interior of the classroom, under the ceiling a special membrane

© Karolina Michalak, Zuzanna Nowakowska, Klaudia Płachetko, Magdalena Stefaniuk

Due to water shortages, the complex is equipped with a rainwater harvesting system. Solar panels have been placed on the roof slopes exposed to the most sunlight, in order to provide access to electricity.

Dobrawa Bies

The vote has already been cast