African Vernacular Architecture Database

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village

Malawi home built with rammed earth and thatch roof in Chizogwe village. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

I am a registered architect and I have a passion for African vernacular architecture. I recently (Sept. 2014) traveled to Malawi to document the vernacular architecture in the entire country. 4,700 pictures are on the web page.

http://www.malawiarchitecture.com/

I also wanted to share with you my latest project… a data base on African vernacular architecture. This project was started because of the lack of information available on line. The data base includes images from every African country. Here is the link to the site:

http://www.africavernaculararchitecture.com/

The goal of the project is to have people, who live or work in an Africa country, submit pictures of vernacular structures to the data base to share with the world. Full credit is given for every picture submitted. For too long, African vernacular architecture has been a topic that has been both under-documented and, unfortunately, ignored. People say there needs to be documentation but yet nothing is done. Whether this is due to difficulties in obtaining funding or just apathy, the fact remains that very little data can be found online

malawi house with porch

House with porch in Malawi. Picture: Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Architecture is as much of a part of a countries culture as is language, music or art. African vernacular architecture is disappearing. I witnessed that fact in Malawi. There are many reasons why vernacular materials and construction techniques are being abandoned in favor of western ones. One main reason is the lack of documentation, especially finding information on line.

I am hoping you could share the project with your readers, the more awareness, the better the chance to convince people to submit pictures to the data base. There is no other resource for African vernacular architecture like the data base: there is no organization gathering information, there is no active research, there is no voice for it. I will gladly answer any questions that you might have about the project.

Cheers,

Jon (Twingi) Sojkowski

Older Buildings Increase Urban Vitality

older smaller better buildings“All across America, blocks of older, smaller buildings are quietly contributing to robust local economies and distinctive livable communities. This groundbreaking study demonstrates the unique and valuable role that older, smaller buildings play in the development of sustainable cities.

Building on statistical analysis of the built fabric of three major American cities [San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.], the research demonstrates that established neighborhoods with a mix of older, smaller buildings perform better than districts with larger, newer structures when tested against a range of economic, social, and environmental outcome measures.”

Older, Smaller, Better. Measuring how the character of buildings and blocks influences urban vitality“, National Trust for Historic Preservation, May 2014. Via Lloyd Alter.

Abandoned Flour Mill in Spain

Abandoned factories in spainLugares Abandonados is a fascinating blog documenting abandoned buildings in Spain.

There are quite some photo reportages about factories, and this one in particular is noteworthy: a forgotten flour mill with part of the machinery still in excellent condition.

The author does not reveal any location for any of the buildings on the blog.

 

The Greenest Building Is The One Already Standing

“Until now, little has been known about the climate change reductions that might be offered by reusing and retrofitting existing buildings rather than demolishing and replacing them with new construction. This groundbreaking study concludes that building reuse almost always offers environmental savings over demolition and new construction. Moreover, it can take between 10 and 80 years for a new, energy-efficient building to overcome, through more efficient operations, the negative climate change impacts that were created during the construction process.” Read more.

The Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit (SUDU)

sudu

The ‘Sustainable Urban Dwelling Unit’ (SUDU) in Ethiopia demonstrates that it is possible to construct multi-story buildings using only soil and stone. By combining timbrel vaults and compressed earth blocks, there is no need for steel, reinforced concrete or even wood to support floors, ceilings and roofs. The SUDU could be a game-changer for African cities, where population grows fast and building materials are scarce.

[Read more…]

Timbrel Vaulting Using Cardboard Formwork

Catalan thin tile vault 4Lara Davis, Matthias Rippman and Philippe Block from the Swiss BLOCK Research Group at the ETH Zurich University have taken the centuries old timbrel vaulting technique one step further by incorporating high-tech design tools (software and CNC fabrication) and low-tech materials (cardboard boxes and wooden palettes).

Find pictures and the research paper here or see the summary below.

[Read more…]

The Agricultural Building and Equipment Plan List: over 300 Free Plans

The Agricultural Building and Equipment Plan List

“The University of Tennessee Extension maintains a collection of over 300 building and equipment plans, and all are now available in electronic format for download. The plans are primarily intended for use in Tennessee, but many are appropriate for other locations as well.

The plans came from many sources. Some were developed in The University of Tennessee Extension Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science Department, but most were developed in a cooperative effort with the United States Department of Agriculture and the Cooperative Farm Building Plan Exchange. The Plan Exchange no longer exists, but the plans remain on file and are available.”

Via The Survivalist Blog.

Why Older Buildings are More Sustainable

why older buildings are more sustainable

“In the late 14th century, England’s King Richard II commissioned a new building, College Hall, at Oxford University. The carpenters who built College Hall¬†knew that the massive oak beams spanning the great hall’s ceiling would probably need to be replaced in a few hundred years, so next to the building, they planted a row of oak seedlings from the trees they used for the beams. Sure enough, the beams needed to be replaced about 300 years later, and the new carpenters had mature oaks right there, ready to be milled and turned into new beams.”

Greening Main Street Buildings (more). The picture shows an example of a recessed entryway – a characteristic common to many traditional commercial buildings that helps prevent hot or cold air from rushing inside when a door is opened.

Once more, hat tip to Lloyd Alter.