Tuesday, 16 February 2010

The Challenge

I will be researching the vernacular architecture of Africa during 2010 while cycling from Cairo to Cape Town.
Vernacular architecture is architecture specifically focusing on locally available resources and traditions to address local needs.
I am a graduate architecture student and continue to study architecture and work as a Part 1 Architectural Assistant for Article 25, the development and disaster relief charity working in the built environment. My research in Africa will be an investigation into the potential use of vernacular techniques in the development of sustainable architecture in the developing world;

 To document how traditional techniques have been adapted and understand the positive and negative lessons for future development.

 To preserve knowledge, raise awareness and create a vital academic resource for architecture students and professional architects for years to come.

 To investigate, draw and record the vernacular architecture along the East coast of Africa.

 To engage within village communities to understand their needs and skills, vital information to help improve the built environment in the future.

I have worked for this architecture charity for over a year contributing to several projects including a reconstruction of a school in Congo and a proto-type school in Sierra Leone. Vernacular techniques were factors in both designs – providing opportunities to improved construction techniques that are sustainable for every user. Within my research I aim to maximise the potential for design; to build bigger schools for less money.
There are many factors which has given me an understanding of social aspects and a grounding of information and background knowledge through design. Working on projects in Africa has stimulated my mind to investigate the continent and experience the culture.
Recently I won funding with Vodafone foundation to make a World of Difference so I have written a blog describing my activities within the charity; (http://worldofdifference.vodafone.co.uk/uk/nyomi-rowsell/ ).
I have a professional interest in Vernacular Architecture and will document the built environment to learn, understand and share knowledge within the architectural community through my blog and a book I plan to write after my trip. In the future I am going to start my Part 2 Architecture Diploma with a focus on humanitarian architecture in the developing world.
I have included some examples of my work. I will keep a written record of my experiences sketching and photographing my journey as well as the vernacular architecture as I wish to document the whole experience.
My enthusiasm for architecture coincides with my fitness. I like to keep myself in shape and ran the Royal Parks Half Marathon around London in October to raise money for Article 25.
Cycling is a sport I love to do and would choose it any time of day to avoid London public transport. I have always been proactive and have managed to cycle around London and stay with friends while working at Article 25. My friends call me the professional nomad and I feel my role as a graduate architect and keen traveller has pointed me in the right direction; to Africa.
I have travelled around Europe and believe the best way of investigating a place is on a bike. My friend Dr Steve Fabes has taken 4 ½ years off to cycle around the world to document and investigate neglected tropical diseases (www.cyclingthe6.com). I immediately knew this was my opportunity to join him and cycle the continent of Africa, the place I have investigated, read and dreamed about for so long.