x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Students and professionals rally to design orphanage in Tanzania

More than 50 architects, engineers, professors and students in the UAE are helping to design an orphanage that will be able to accommodate about 300 children in the African country.

Architecture professor George Katodrytis (top-white shirt) with a group of architects and designers working on the design of an orphanage in Tanzania. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper
Architecture professor George Katodrytis (top-white shirt) with a group of architects and designers working on the design of an orphanage in Tanzania. Jaime Puebla / The National Newspaper

DUBAI // A group of more than 50 architects, engineers, professors and students have come together to design an orphanage in Tanzania.

The volunteers – expatriates and an Emirati – will meet in Dubai over the next few weeks for a series of workshops to brainstorm and design a unique structure that will be home to about 300 orphans.

“A charitable organisation in Tanzania bought this land and approached us to do a drawing,” said George Katodrytis, a professor of architecture at the American University of Sharjah (AUS) and one of the volunteers.

“We have invited young students, architects and professors to create a design team. We are organising workshops to come up with ideas and will then go to Tanzania to build the orphanage.”

Mr Katodrytis is also the co-founder of OpenSource_Arc, a non-profit, non-fundraising group that works with architects, engineers and designers to provide expertise on charity projects.

Professionals use their skills, research and knowledge to come up with sustainable and sensitive designs.

“Everybody shares ideas with each other. There is no hierarchy,” said Mr Katodrytis.

The first workshop was held last weekend and more than 45 people attended. More are expected to come to the next sessions.

“We wanted to get architects, designers and engineers to come together and use their skills to do something good,” said Sareh Ameri, one of the founders of OpenSource_Arc and a managing partner at a Dubai company Resysta Building Material.

“It’s not always about people giving money but it’s about the energy and enthusiasm. People are giving their time to design something for people they have never met and will never meet. The main purpose is the charity element. It’s really rewarding.”

The volunteers are divided into groups and five workshops will be held this month and next.

At the end of them, they will come up with detailed drawings, models and master plans for the orphanage in the Mkuranga district, near Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam. The best elements from each master plan will be put together.

Tasks will be allocated to different groups to work on the orphanage’s foundation, walls, roof, rain-water collection, garden and sports facilities.

“We are looking at creating something fantastic,” said Ms Ameri. “The simple, basic, four-wall structures with a roof on top are already existing – ours will be a creative, well-ventilated and a sustainable building and will keep the main people, that is children, in mind.”

Work on the building, which is being funded by a Tanzanian non-government organisation, Larchfield, will begin in June next year.

The first phase will accommodate 50 children and will be ready by June 2015. The entire orphanage is expected to be ready in five years, though the total costs are yet to be estimated.

This is not the first time OpenSource_Arc has designed a charity project. In 2010, it built a school for 240 children in rural Cameroon, with the help of 60 professionals, academics and students.

They worked alongside residents, using traditional building methods and materials sourced from the area.

The Tanzanian project will be similar. Once the design is finalised, the group will send it to Larchfield for approval.

Students working on the project say they will gain from the practical experience.

“I have always been interested in bring together architecture and humanity,” said Basant El Shimy, a fourth year architecture student at AUS.

“I had taken a course on architecture and refugee camps last semester and visited Palestinian refugee camps in Jordan for this. I focused on women and children in refugee camps. I spoke to a lot of people and used that to come up with ideas for architecture that would be safe for women and children.”

She said that while her previous ideas were only on paper, the Tanzanian project would help take her to the next level.

“I have never participated in designing something that will be built,” Ms El Shimy said.

“There are complexities involved in turning a project into reality and the workshops bridge that gap.”