• UIA Road trip Caravan 2014/ Students under the EAIA

Architecture Students:
University of Nairobi: KOIGI Kubai, MASAI Lynette, NYAMWEYA Victor, MATHENGE Michael, OBALA Mercy
Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology: OKETCH Mirriam, MATHUVA Titus, OYUGI Bob, CHEGE Caroline, MIGINGO Maurice, NJIIRI Wallace
Makerere University: MASUBA Kenneth, LUWAGA Donald, TWINOKWESIGA Annet,  OKOTH Lawrence, TIZIKARA Nobert
Uganda Martyrs University: KAVUMA Paul Mwanje, MUGOMBA Paul Rian, CANDIA Drazu Herbert, KIGOZI Nsubuga Joseph, NAMUTEBI Sheila   
Ardhi University: MBOSHA Dorothea Erasmus, MINJA Michael M., GAMBALOYA Gabriel, ARBOGAST Nancy Aikarua, MALENYA Frank M.
Kigali Institute of Sience and Technology: DUKUNDE Marie Minerve, BUTERA Elly Junior, KARAGIRE Christian

Architectural Associations:
Architectural Association of Kenya (AAK)
Uganda Society of Architects (USA)
East Africa Institute of Architects (EAIA)

Sponsors:
DUMU ZAS

Special Thanks:
African Tours Ltd
Kipepeo Beach Hotel
Mercure Randburg Hotel
Banana Backpackers
ICC Durban and the UIA team that made the conference all possible

For the very first time, six colleges of architecture across East Africa supported their students in an adventurous academic trip through the region’s major cities whilst engaging them in architectural discourse. They shared ideas on urban design challenges with solutions emerging from ARCHITECTURE OTHERWHERE as a means to prime them for the highly anticipated UIA Durban 2014 Conference.

Warm reception

It was a part of a program created by the East African Institute of Architects to sponsor 30 students from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda to the international conference in South Africa and along the way encourage collaboration and competition within groups. The program was spearheaded by the AAK who hosted the students in Nairobi, the concrete ‘green’ city in the sun from July 24th to July 26th. Admirably, the group selections scattered the different nationalities into a collective of eager minds with diverse backgrounds. No herding was observed allowing for fresh intimate interactions between strangers that fostered strong ties. And where the conversations dropped, the ever cheerful Arch. Nicholas Onyango steered on the debates.

The initial orientation was quickly followed with the first brief for the travelling studio. The task at hand was to tackle the chaos (or kavuyu for our Ugandan friends) in an informal node that is Muthurwa Market, a massive public transit station for buses and matatus that is rife with hawkers, mkokotenis and makeshift kiosks. Needless to say, it has caused perpetual headaches to the County Council officials and Urban Planners alike. The brief asked for proposals that will intervene in the small, medium and large scales of the site following the themes of the conference; RESILIENCE, ECOLOGY, and VALUES. All that in a span of 24hours! A warm welcome indeed.

Caravan Roadtrip

But miraculously, the dynamic mind of a young creative perseveres through timelines and on the early morning of July 27th the group was on the road. The destination was Dar es Salaam via Namanga border, a journey that was courtesy of African Tours specialists. For those who have had the luxury of caravans, there are two sides to the coin. Views are breathtaking, with no route better than the Namanga to Moshi route, showcasing two Mountains (Meru and Kilimanjaro) and exotic landscapes comparable to a desktop slideshow wallpaper. Most of the road was smooth for a change which made the trip bearable. However, the downside is in the rugged experience of tent assembly and dismantling, considering the 8 hour periods on the road testing the limits of one’s mental and physical fitness.

After two days on the road, innumerable selfies and hiked roaming charges, a gorgeous sea front embraced the group’s arrival. Dar es Salaam exposed a story of an unpublicized city itching to overtake the region’s capitals. Infrastructure was ideally placed with robust road networks and walkways were articulated exclusively for pedestrians and bicycle users. Tanzania National Stadium had a majestic crown that was visible from the highway while some of the tallest buildings in East Africa pierced the sky upto 40 floors. Regardless, traffic was still a menace on these roads and contemporary glass boxes had been fronted so much that there have been environmental design concerns raised by the students.

Studio by the Beach

As a continuation of the travelling studio, another urban design challenge had been presented by Dr. Lwamayanga of Ardhi University, whose main concern was the development pattern of the Mwenge-Ubunge (Mlimani area) that was turning from residential projects into commercial exploits. Afterwards, the teams were free to dream large for the zoning and morphological changes with crits carried out occasionally in a span of 2 days. Transnighting sessions by the beach were interesting, with the gentle splash of the waves at earshot and the breeze taking the students into the wee hours of the night.

South African Bliss

On the eve of August 1st, the group was flown into Johannesburg where the villagers were truly brought into the city. The urban morphology was truly organized with a gradual increase in overpasses and building heights towards the CBD. The students shunned from comparisons as they toured Brightwater shopping mall in Randburg and Sandton city. There is a real need to develop East Africa!

The hotel rooms were an important upgrade from camping in tents, and this time was utilized on finalizing previous design interventions. By the next day, the teams had toured Soweto Market opposite Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital as well as the late Nelson Mandela’s residence on Nobel Laureate Road which had been converted into a commercial street full of restaurants and clubs. As a surprise last minute stop, the eager travelers passed by Soccer City to admire the stadium.

The trip into Durban was an enjoyable journey through the Gauteng Province and Kwa Zulu Natal countryside which looked otherworldly with burnt dry grasslands, volcanic plugs, Montusi Mountain and the Drankensburg Mountain at the horizon. After an 8 hour drive, the city of Ethekwini emerged from the hilly landscapes. The group settled in a backpackers lodge which was opposite the ICC Arena, home for the first UIA conference south of the Sahara.

By the opening day of the conference, the students were elated to see how advanced the city was in architecture and recreation facilities. Most of them had visited the Moses Mabidha Stadium with its sky lift that offers a view over the city. The beachfront offered a case study into the direction a public beach could be rejuvenated in both aesthetics and spaces for social interactions.

Then finally the conference begun and in the entire three day schedule, the paths of the attendees were shaped into thinking globally. The keynote speakers ranged from Toyo Ito, Francis Kere, Susannah Drake, Rahul Mehrotra and Cameron Sinclair, just to mention a few. Their talks inspired the audience into accepting their enormous role in creating environments and not just beautiful forms for people to live in. The exhibitions placed by various countries around the world maintained their relevance and appeal to the last day. All over were workshops on aspects of built environment taking place with the world’s most critical minds sharing their intellectual papers on disaster management, low cost housing and contextual design in the 21st Century.

The students were later to present their travelling studio designs, a daunting task as they had all used various media to arrange their ideas and interventions. The jury comprised of AAK, EAIA and CAA officials who were impressed by the success of the studio under tight restraints and commended the teams in their focus. The final day was topped off with a formal dinner at the Southern Sun hotel, where the AAK and EAIA coordinators had a chance to interact and congratulate the students in their experiences and their overall good behavior along the trip.

Parting Shot
The student team acted as the front runners for representing our amicable cultures and professionalism to the world. They had put into the environments as much as they had taken out from their travels and experiences, and as Cameron Sinclair had put it in his keynote speech; Architecture is where life happens.

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