• Adeline Gruber on Translating the Man Made : An underwater Observatory on the Shoreline of Lake Malawi

Architects: Adeline Gruber  
Location: Lake Malawi,  Malawi
Project Team: Adeline Gruber
Project Year: 2014
Photographer: Adeline Gruber

School:University of Witwatersrand

There is something about the portion placed in a designer’s mind that elicit a problem solving approach, a sort of social dynamics that though conjoint within many a man, seems well kept at bay from the majority of them. Adeline Gruber’s attempt at translating the man-made, connecting the realm of nature and the possibilities of man at the shores of Lake Malawi touch at the very epitome of socio-cultural endeavours and traverses the common, into the unique. 

The thesis proposes an underwater observatory on the shoreline of Lake Malawi, to address both a depleting species and a food source and seeks to address a social standing that has long been plaguing the inhabitants of a small village situated in Cape Maclear, between Lake Malawi National Park and the local community of Chembe village. The observatory is a threshold into the park and a subliminal yet ironically conscious boundary between land and water, in and out, above and below. It is a metaphorical attempt towards having architecture impact the community and the execution physically tasks the mind. 

From the Project Author:

Lake Malawi covers one-third of its country. Local Malawians, living along the water’s edge, are dependent on this natural resource for food, water and sanitation. Over-fishing and water contamination threatens the existence of its aquatic species and hence, a livelihood that evolves around it. Cichlid fish native to the lake are a rapidly evolving species, they are also a rapidly depleting food source. The lake is as much a part of nature as it is a part of a nation’s culture. Fishermen prepare their nets at sunset, go out at night with flickering paraffin lamps, and return at sunrise with a diminishing catch of Chambo while women make their way to the water’s edge to wash and collect water.

The programme is categorized within Science and Community. Communal facilities address alternative food sources through a Moringa tree nursery, access to sanitation through a public lavatory and education through an underwater-observatory. While scientific laboratories aid in documenting and recording the rapid evolution of Cichlids. 

If architecture can be viewed as a hybrid, a paradigm of both human culture and mortal nature, then  let  an  amphibious  structure  rest  upon  the  water’s  edge,  partially  submerged within and elevated over water and land such that the building acts as a bathometer, recording the climatic changes marked upon its surface. 

Ultimately, Architecture modifies nature while nature modifies it. Our livelihoods, our food and our buildings are of this earth and like nature; they must continuously adapt, modify and evolve to meet the ever tasking facets of life... 

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