to an orphanage in South Africa
“Village of Hope” is the name of the relief camp that the NGO Thembalitsha constructed south-east of Cape Town for AIDS orphans and HIV-infected children. In 2013 the overcrowded accommodation was expanded and modernised, thanks to the commitment of 25 architecture students from the University of Stuttgart. They worked on a voluntary basis to renovate the existing building and expand the children's home by adding a large new building measuring 75 square metres. Since the spring of this year, following a construction phase that lasted a month and a half, the unit has been able to cater for 20 children instead of the previous 10. The name of the project is “ukuqala3 – build together, learn together”.
Hansgrohe SE donated lots of bathroom and kitchen products. In the bathrooms, the children now shower and wash using:
- Raindance Froggy hand showers
- Croma shower sets
- EcoSmart overhead showers
- Ecostat S thermostats and
- Talis S basin mixers
Thanks to EcoSmart, the showers save water and energy – both valuable commodities in South Africa. Talis Variarc kitchen mixers help with the cooking and washing up.
Interview with project coordinator Leslie Koch
Back in 2011 and 2012, working in conjunction with Thembalitsha, students of architecture professor Arno Lederer constructed two housing units (ukuqala1 and ukuqala2) in the village of Grabouw. Project coordinator Leslie Koch was on site during each of these three years. The architect and research assistant at the institute came up with the project as part of her dissertation on sustainable building and DIY, which she wrote in 2010 with her fellow student Ulrike Perlmann.
Leslie Koch, what made you opt for the South African organisation Thembalitsha? Leslie Koch: We decided on South Africa because I had a connection to the country, and I had already spent long periods of time there on several occasions. We felt it was important for us to find an organisation there whose work and future potential we really believed in. The rest was pure coincidence: an acquaintance of mine had worked there as a volunteer. So I got in contact with the project manager of the Village of Hope. After a few conversations on Skype, we decided to tackle the project together.
What impressions did the students come back home with?
L.K.: The climatic conditions on site, together with an insight into what is essentially a very complex social stratum, are tough to contend with, but the students took a joyful and enthusiastic approach to the ukuqala3 project, completing it during an intensive phase of construction. They came back home with a sense of pride, and with lasting impressions and experiences. Ukuqala3 was an extremely rewarding experience for everyone – not to mention a technical success. We had planned the construction project at the university several months prior to starting, and in March 2013 the finished work was inspected and approved by the local authorities.
What technical challenges did ukuqala3 present – and how did the planning theory differ from actual practice?
L.K.: In all three ukuqala projects, the aim was to achieve a design that was energy-efficient and sustainable. The fact that everything ran so well to schedule in 2013 was also down to the easy-to-implement design and the fact that we made use of low-cost materials from the surrounding area: pine, straw, clay and recycled printing plates. The students gained valuable practical experience on the construction site, making visual sense of what would otherwise be merely an abstract drawing. For example, they learned exactly why it makes sense to use construction foils beneath the foundation plate, rather than simply viewing these as dotted lines on the plan. You feel materials and gain a sense of feasibility for using them. How long does concrete take to harden? Is the roof insulated from below or above?
Have you got any tips for young architects at other universities who are looking to get involved in something similar?
L.K.: They need courage, lots of motivation and stamina. Once the project begins, more essential issues crop up that need dealing with, such as organisation, participants, and not forgetting the all-important financing. But all this can be achieved, as long as they possess those first three qualities!
In 2013 the students also expanded the ukuqala2 unit by adding three sanitary blocks. Hansgrohe SE donated kitchen and bathroom products for these. Why did you choose mixers and showers from the Black Forest?
L.K.: In furnishing them our focus was not so much on design, but more on quality and durability. This means less maintenance work for the Village of Hope and lower running costs. The Hansgrohe products impressed us because they are extremely hard-wearing and easy and convenient to operate. These top-quality furnishings help enhance the level of care that can be given to the orphans. And they also make the daily routine of personal hygiene fun for the young residents. What the children there need most is an atmosphere of happiness and light-heartedness.