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Sustainable Architecture in Africa

Climate change is a fact we all know that. What we do not know is the scenario we will face in the coming years. In some places of the world, like Africa, the consequences are already visible: increasing desertification, rising temperatures and water scarcity. What is to be done?


In this blog post, you will read about two architects working in Africa to find a solution to the above problem.


The first of them is Diébédo Francis Kéré.

Diébédo Francis Kéré was born in 1965 in Burkina Faso, a country in West Africa. He grew up in a small village and at the age of seven, following his father's will, he moved all alone to the nearby city to learn to write and read. He then won a scholarship and managed to study in Germany at the Technical University of Berlin, where he graduated in architecture in 2004.


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Kéré's name is known all over the world. He is known for his innovative works, which are often sustainable and based on collaboration. He is also known for involving the community in his projects and for using innovative materials and techniques from the region. "Vernacular?" You may be wondering what that means. I'll give you a hint! Vernacular architecture is the typical traditional architecture of a particular place, built by local builders without special studies and using local products and raw materials according to local conditions.

The pictures below show an example of traditional architecture. It is the elementary school in Gando built in 2001. This is Kéré's first project and as you can see it was built with local materials such as mud bricks and clay instead of cement and with the labor of local people.


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Wait a minute, adobe and clay? Then how could the school have been solid? For that you must know that it rains a lot in Burkina Faso, and when it rains, it rains really hard. Raw clay and mud may not be the best materials to use. But Kéké knew what he was doing: he used local materials with modern techniques, and the school was soon finished. After more than 20 years, it is still completely undamaged.

Kéké has won many international and prestigious awards, but the only thing that matters to him is his community. The awards were just a consequence of his work. Kéké is aware that he has been lucky in life. He says of himself that he is privileged because people are still dying in Burkina Faso due to the poor quality of life and climate change, which is getting worse by the day. His goal is to share his good fortune with the members of the Gando community to improve their quality of life.



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Now that you know the story of Kéké, it's time to talk about our second architect: Arturo Vittori. Vittori is an Italian architect who has also won prestigious awards and collaborated with international figures to design aerospace and earth projects, but his most memorable project dates back to 2015: it's called "Waka Water".



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The idea came about while visiting villages in the northeastern region of Ethiopia, where Vittori was confronted with a dramatic reality: the lack of drinkable water. People have to walk miles to fetch water, and most of the time it's not even clean. How can this problem be solved?

Vittori created a tower, the "Warka Tower", whose name comes from the Warka tree, a wild large fig tree. This tree is very common in the region and plays a central role in the life of local communities, providing food and shade.



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But what does this tower do and how does it work? The purpose of the tower is to provide drinking water in a sustainable way. It collects moisture from the air and brings it down to the people by gravity. The structure is made of bamboo, while the inner part is made of a net that collects the water in a large container. Each tower can provide the community with about 100 liters of water per day.


Local people are involved in every stage of the construction and it is important to mention that Warka Tower is environmentally friendly and made of biodegradable materials.

These two architects and their works tell us about sustainable building methods and open our eyes to a new idea: innovative architecture to improve life in Africa. Let us be inspired by them!


Written by Vittoria Martignago


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