Homebase Studio Placemakers

Designing

July, 2015

 


In the beginning we brainstorm and sketch in many different directions. Every time we pick up ideas, as stepping stones they lead to a design that reflects our way of living and is adapted to its location in as many aspects as possible.

 

Our home will be multifunctional. We live there, so we need some form of bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. And we do off-site work there, so the largest space will be the office for designing, computer work and meetings. We also need a small workshop for our tools and materials, preferably with the garden as extended workspace.

 

An ‘umbrella roof’ will be an important feature regardless the specific design. The upper roof creates shade and air flow over the lower roof. It’s a proven technique for cooler buildings in hot climates, but unfortunately still highly underutilised. As a lower roof we will use translucent roofsheets lighting the rooms from above, we like the atmosphere this gives. We wonder how the shaded light will effect the temperature of the rooms, because in direct sunlight a translucent roof creates an oven. We have not been able to find any examples of an umbrella roof like this, so this is an experiment. We hope the warming effect is mild and will be overcompensated by the umbrella roof in general.

 

The best spot to build is on the upper side of our land. The plot is 15 meters wide and sloping down, an interesting puzzle. Roos comes up with the eventual concept spontaneously. Seperate rooms for every function all opening up to a wide veranda. The veranda as living room, corridor and entrance in one. A basic building, practical and opening up to outside. Relatively simple to construct.

 

In Yene all construction is done with concrete, rebar and large hollow cement bricks. Nearly all roofs are flat, waiting to be built up further. This method of building is straightforward and there are small hardware stores around every corner that sell the basic supplies. But there are three downsides to this: cement and steel is expensive, inside it is hot and it is unsustainable. An important part of our work is creating new possibilities with local materials, so ofcourse our home will be a showcase for this.

 

Over the years we have built up a good catalog of natural building methods from around the world, with plenty of examples as inspiration. Information and inspiration is one thing, hands-on experience another. Skilled natural builders are rare around here, we mostly find the long-term results of unskilled attempts. Our best option is compressed laterite bricks. We are still waiting to get in touch with a good laterite brick builder when we meet travelling cob teacher Claudine Desiree. We exchange our ideas and decide to work together to host a monthlong local-international cob workshop. With cob instead of bricks a tire foundation makes a great base. For this we do know a good local team. 3000 Ecomen are based in Dakar and we ask them to train our local team for a week. These collaborations are an essential part of the design. Most importantly they make it possible to build with our local team. Our home will be a showcase, but it is the skills they learn that can make this into new local capital.

 

Designing really starts when we combine the budget restrictions, location, concept, and building methods. It’s an impossible balancing act ping-ponging us towards final choices. Then come the details, they are the most time consuming. Luckily we can still decide on many of them during construction. In many cases it will depend on available materials and their price, so there is lots of interesting research to be done into ‘sources’ in Yene, Dakar and around. This will surely lead to some tough new design challenges. We also look forward to figuring things out on the spot, this is more practical and you simply come up with smarter solutions. We prefer to work like this. The design is finished when the building is done, not when you start building.

Studio Placemakers

studioplacemakers@gmail.com