In architecture, perhaps one of the most profound milestones achieved during the 20th century was the radical rethinking to Humanitarian Architecture. And as seen by the provision of Affordable Housing which the century brought about as driven by a worldwide population explosion and the devastation of the past two world wars.
But what does this mean for Zambia? and most importantly the noble country’s Architecture?
Before the above question can be justified with an answer, it’s best to remind ourselves of the basic fact about Zambia being located in a region that experiences the tropical climate. And anyone with a decent memory will tell you from their Geography class that this is because the country lies along, if not, just above the Tropic of Capricorn and away from the equator. The Climate here ranges from mild hot to hot daytime and nighttime temperatures.
Without trailing too far from the question at hand, my answer to the Zambian shortage in supply of decent housing is Container Housing.
Because we live in a region such as we do, I would however care to remind you to take caution before treading along this route.
The containers that I have come across come 20 foot in length for the smaller option and 40 foot in length for the larger one, and are made of metal (which alone, as a characteristic, is a good conductor of heat).
Therefore, if one is going to make a house out of metal, then a lot of modifications need to be sought.
One sure way to achieve this is thorough insulation; straw bales tucked behind painted timber paneling to occupant’s preference would work quite well whilst leaving the house feeling and looking light all at the same time.
Ventilation, is another such way to keep the heat of the Tropics out. Thus generous openings are prudent, and therefore up to the task; Large doors opening onto a patio help add a modern touch to any dwelling besides their cooling effect, and equally large windows help do the same but even more when used with the high level window options.
Having plants (especially trees) near windows to act as shading devices also functions just as well in keeping the interiors cool during those hot summer days.
And since the sun crosses from East to West, it is always wise during orientation at the design stage, to place more openings along the North-South Axis, away from direct sun rays.
Any building characterized by the foregoing rules of thumb is well on its way to cool summer days and nights for its occupants.
In conclusion, I’ll borrow (without any intention of giving them back) the words of the 2016 Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate Alejandro Aravena, who has “chosen” to go the Humanitarian Architecture route with his Elemental firm that takes some time to focus on providing affordable housing in his home country of Chile:
“Socially minded architecture is a choice not a responsibility.”
But maybe it should be more of a responsibility than a choice. Would you not agree?