• Honoring Wangari Maathai: The Epitome of Sustainable Influence

When fire breaks out in a huge forest, all the animals flee, except the hummingbird. The little bird flies back and forth, its beak filled with water. The other animals are terrified into inaction. When asked what the hummingbird can possibly do with its small beak, the little bird answers, “I am doing the best I can. I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching as the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird. I will do the best I can.”

On the 25th Day of September, we celebrate, Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, died , at the age of 71. A formidable woman of no measurable fete, she was the influential behind everything sustainable within the world. A former member of the Kenyan parliament, Maathai combined not only peaceful community-based activism and forest-conservation efforts, but also government transparency and women’s rights, all in one game-changing project called the Green Belt Movement, which has planted more than 40 million trees in Kenya and abroad.

Here at archiDATUM, we take time to honour her, her works and her enduring legacy of architectural and social change that has driven the world on through projects she would have happily championed. We look at two projects that would have been dear to the cause of Wangari Mutia Mathaai.

The project seeks to give expression to the vision of Wangari Maathai by embodying the values and the principles of the Green Belt Movement GBM in the design architecture philosophy, site landscaping and engineering.

 

One of the key metaphors of the submission’s by the firm is the ‘three legged stool as described by Wangari Maathai
“I believe these three legs are symbolic. 
One represents good management of our natural resources, equitable distribution of the same, and a sense of accountability. 
Another represents good governance – a democratic state that respects humankind so that we can have dignity as human beings. 
The third represents peace. The base on which we sit is development.” – Professor Wangari Maathai –

The ‘Green Campus’ will be the home of the Institute for Peace & Environmental Studies (WMI) of Noble Peace Prize Laureate Prof Wangari Maathai. Located on a lush and steeply sloping 50-acre site at the University of Nairobi Kabete campus, the WMI is envisaged as a functional and inspiring hub of activities in the area of natural resource management and education for sustainable development. The institute is expected to meet stringent sustainability and conservation criteria, aiming to achieve close to 100% carbon neutrality and self-sufficiency.

Boogertman and Partners describes the forest as “a ‘green lung’ for the polluted city” of Nairobi, is also a “water catchment area for several rivers and has a unique recreational and educational potential for Nairobi dwellers to enjoy, understand and stay in touch with their natural heritage,” and that is exactly what the project is all about. It is a bold attempt towards embracing the heart of the forest.

Several design guidelines governed the design competition to ensure that the final design aligned to the centre’s primary purpose of conservation of the environment and sustainable use of natural resources:

  • Limit the development as far as is reasonable within the currently built-up area and prevent encroaching onto surrounding natural habitats
  • Minimize the carbon footprint by using materials with low environmental impacts
  • Maximize carbon sequestration by using materials with high carbon contents
  • Make the centre as self sufficient as possible in the use of natural resources (such as water) and energy.  
  • The facility should be a live model and a showcase of cutting edge green building practices and lifestyles. As far as possible, the Centre should comply with the LEED certification or other regional green architecture certifications
  • The facility should be designed to blend in and complement the surrounding environment, in particular the forest. The forest should be considered as an extension of the centre
  • The design and layout should be simple. Unnecessary complexity that alienates the visitors and is in conflict with the centre’s objectives should be avoided
  • Be world class but retain a high level of reality and practicality Be universally accessible.

Boogertman’s winning design consists of a timber boxes made of ECO-WOOD recycled timber and inspired by traditional Masai building techniques, facilitating movement across the threshold. Spanning over the water, the boxes utilise natural light and passive cooling systems to create comfortable exhibition space.rectangular box that forms a wall or threshold that divides the landscape and separates the forest from the public. The wall, constructed from local stone and clad with coral stone, also protects the building from the harsh Western sun.

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