The Monthly European Architectural Newsletter
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January 2010

division of Archi-Europe Group


To be an architect, in other words

To work as an architect also means involving impoverished people. It involves helping people afflicted by natural, technological or human disasters. And involve them while respecting cultures and in a perspective of sustainable development. It involves humanitarian work and working in isolated regions. There are many initiatives. Founded in Paris 1997, the NGO Architecture & Development’s objective is to reinforce architects’ abilities as participants in development, while emphasising their social role in helping vulnerable populations. Its multicultural approach and multi disciplinary team can offer everyone a decent living space through training, awareness raising, exchanges and habitat projects. The Members of Architecture for Humanity provide assistance to the poor communities of all countries, wherever they are. The organisation had already done useful work before launching its Open Architecture Network, to draw up plans for earthquake resistant buildings and homes for refugees. The group also offers its support to the reconstruction of regions devastated by tsunamis and hurricanes. The Emergency Architects Foundations has been recognised by the European Union, the United Nations and different international prizes for its actions for humanity, which demonstrate how emergency architecture has been recognised. From France, Australia and Canada the network has expanded its operations to help in nine weakened countries including Peru, Chad, Indonesia, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Isolated cases now tend to multiply. Take a look at the astounding alternative dwelling design the “Prefab Parasite” from the Lara Calder Architect Australian Agency. This “parasitic” dwelling, made from compressed bamboo and recycled paper can be rapidly installed above street level and is attached to unused or neglected blind surfaces such as bridge piles. This is a modular design and can be used in the most varied contexts to increase the inhabitable surface areas on high density zones. When poorly handled, urban space is still an issue in answering the ecological challenge of human activity.

The Archi-Europe team

Portrait of the month

Diébédo Francis Kéré

The architect Francis Kéré from Burkina Faso, one of the five 2009 winners of the Global Award for Sustainable Architecture, uses local materials and labour. To adapt the technology of industrial countries to Africa.

In 2004, the project of a primary school in Gando, an obscure village in Burkina Faso on the border of Togo and Ghana won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Planners have their sights on the local designer, Francis Kéré. He is an urban architect who graduated from the Berlin Technische Universität started this first project in 1999 when he was still a student. It is interesting to see how the architect transposes TU’s ecological rationalism to the climatic and social conditions of Gando. But his efforts are not limited to architecture. With the help of his association Schulbausteine für Gando (Bricks for the Gando School), he tries to supply educational structures to his people to combat illiteracy and offer perspectives for a better future. His objective is to promote the direct involvement of local populations in the development process.

Francis Kéré lives between Berlin, where he opened his agency and teaches sustainable architecture at TU, and Burkina Faso where he pursues his innovative designs. In Africa he builds schools and equipment which are always simple and economic, such as the Gando Women’s Centre, which is under construction. At Ouagadougou he is conducting discussions for the creation of an Africa opera house. The projects of the Bamako National Park in Mali and the Dapong Training Centre bear his mark. His sphere of action takes him to Yemen, Spain and India. As well as his teaching and research activities, he goes round the world to run workshops and conferences on ecology in Madrid, Johannesburg, New York and Oslo. And one of his compatriots affirms: Diébédo Francis Kéré’s story is edifying and passionate. He is a man with dynamism and creative potential, developed by his studies and enhanced by a heightened sense of responsibility, as he has opened new perspectives for a whole continent.”

Knowing western culture how do you go about reaching an acceptable level of architecture in Africa?
The simplest way is not to be afraid and to concentrate on the possibilities in Africa with traditional materials and the potential of the local workforce. Don’t be led by the idea that Africans should live in round houses. I want to change that and interpret what I have learned in Europe for the needs of Africa. With this approach one can recreate a genuine architecture for Africa.

What can be retained from European architecture which might be applicable to Africa?
That is difficult to say. Don’t forget that climate conditions are very different. We have to design houses which don’t get hot. We can use European designs. We can above all learn not to be an individualistic architect struggling to achieve beautiful ideas. We also have to work with people. To persuade them. To involve them.

Do you want to involve people so that they are happy in the act of construction?
We Africans may be underdeveloped but we have human resources. If we organise ourselves with the little that we do have, we can create a constructed world which is not afraid to be compared with Europe. And if architecture responds to the needs of inhabitants and is accepted by them, that means that we have to involve them in the initial stages. I can see a real opportunity for Africa. Our Gando school project was so successful that the number of pupils literally exploded. We have now built an extension to accommodate a total of 700 pupils. This is a huge achievement when we realise that Burkina Faso has an 80% illiteracy rate.

Which simple techniques do you advise, especially for the Gando school?
To protect the buildings from the heat I advise a compact building which regulates its heat and double canopy roof. That is, a large suspended ceiling in clay, separated by a layer of air, a lightly sloped cloth roof. This must overhang by at least two metres to act as a sun shade and to protect the walls. Thanks to the open façade air constantly circulates to cool the building without consuming energy. And we used laterite, a material found locally to economise on the foundations. The class rooms are in a linear lay out and are surrounded by bearing walls in blocks of compressed clay and bound in concrete. The structure was made in situ in steel welded by the village blacksmiths. Each building should have an identifying technical novelty. The act of building is a means of development by education and a communication tool between all countries.

Project of the month

Projects for Africa

Africa is now waking up to an international architecture. If South Africa is attracting attention because of the football World Cup and shows its new stadiums which are equal to those of western countries, Maghreb and black Africa have some remarkable and noted structures. Two projects in progress bear the signature of French architects.

Conference centre, Ouagadougou

The winner of an international competition last July, the agency Codelfy & Associates, will be constructing a Conference Centre made up of three buildings with a cupola form at a strategic crossroads in the capital of Burkina Faso. The structure will be in the centre of a town park created around the water and calabash, a herbaceous plant which inspired its profile. According to the designers, its mission was to be an international shop window of quality and will offer the inhabitants and visitors to the city a place for relaxation. The complex will exploit its natural elements, the relationship of time and traditional landmarks. The organic spirit of the architecture accentuates this spirit of harmony. The buildings in architectural concrete have curved surfaces in their 17,800 m2 surface area. A large dome with a textile membrane will be able to cool the actual conference hall. This very ambitious project should see the light of day in two years’ time.

CasaArt, Casablanca

In 2015, Casablanca will be able to claim that it has the largest theatre in Africa and in the Arab world. The author is the French architect Christian de Portzampare (born in this town of Morocco in 1944) in association with the Moroccan architect Rachid Andaloussi. The complex extends over a surface area of nearly 25,000 m2, and will include a large multi function performance hall of 1800 places, a theatre of 600 places, stores, meeting places, a library, an exhibition hall and art galleries. It is a veritable cultural village which can bring the town centre to life. The project’s appearance and functionality were very impressive during the international competition. Its “elegant fragmentary architecture” integrates with the environment and respects the city’s strong identity. Christian Portzamparc is one of the most important designers of auditoriums in the world. “I like to design architectural forms for music, for listening and watching, two fields of perception dialogue and answer freely. Space grants us a space, he affirms. Based on an alternation of levels, the new theatre takes root in the joy of a meeting and cooperation with the Moroccan architect.

Product of the month

Durability and safety are indispensible features in garage doors.

There are many factors to consider when choosing a garage door, whether it is for a new building, a renovated building or a replacement door. Buyers have to weigh up comfort, safety, durability, design, ease of maintenance and the price-quality ratio. Because garage doors are usually automatic nowadays, they are used more often. The function of the traditional garage door has undergone something of a revolution and garage doors now serve as the main entrance to many homes. The criteria set for high-quality garage doors have also changed gradually. It is clear that three relatively new requirements - durability, design and anti-burglar protection - are now considered essential.

•Durability in the face of an increasingly unpredictable climate
•Contemporary and affordable design!
•State-of-the-art protection against burglars that complies with security standards required for outer wall elements!

Now also available in Crawford’s range;
Thanks to Crawford Normstahl’s continuous investments in research & development, several “Normstahl” benefits are now available for other types of sectional doors from our range. They include the Normstahl sideways sectional doors and the Crawford g60 sectional doors for which foil-coated sections are now available. The g60 also has optional resistance class 2 anti-burglary protection, which can be fitted upon request.

As this article shows, there is a huge variety of garage doors available and it is certainly worth your while to gather detailed information before investing in a door that will soon be used by your entire family every day.


Seismograph City - Hamburg im Dialog
(22/01 – 4/03/2010) - Berlin (DE)
(25/02 – 7/03/2010) Brussels (BE)
(14/10/2009 - 08/03/2010) - Paris (FR)
(13 – 21/02/2010) – Amsterdam (NL)
(18 – 21/02/2010) Vienna (AT)
IV Biennale Internazionale di Architettura “Barbara Cappochin”
(>1/03/2010) - Padova. (IT)
Modernista: Gaudi and his Contemporaries in Modern Day Barcelona
(> 28/02/2010) - Glasgow (UK)
>> read more


Restaurant & Bar Design Awards 2010
Deadline : 31/01/2010

The Schindler Award
Deadline : 30/04/2010

World Habitat Awards
Deadline : 01/06/2010
>> read more


1. Eduardo Souto de Moura Architect
Francesc Zamora Mola
400 pages | € 39.95
Editions Loft Publications
ISBN 978-8492463-99-2
>> read more

2. Concept-store
Olivier Gerval, Emilie Kremer & Jean-Claude Printz
282 pages | € 28.00
Editions Eyrolles

ISBN 978-2-212-12428-6
>> read more

3. Smart Surfaces – and their Application in Architecture and Design
Klooster, Thorsten

184 pages |

ISBN 978-3-7643-8812-6
>> read more


Copyright 2010 Archi-Europe Group nv/sa
Responsible Editor: Jacques Allard | Chief Editor: Marie-Claire Regniers

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