Build with Gambia – Earth Architecture Workshop

Build with Gambia workshop

In 2018 I will be leading an earth architecture workshop and design-build challenge in rural Gambia, and I’m looking for volunteers to join the workshop. Together with the local youth, we will design and build a unit of a vocational skills center and the main technique will be rammed earth. The workshop is organized by Nka Foundation, a non-profit organization that serves underserved communities in Africa through arts and design.

If you are interested in joining the workshop or want more information, send me an e-mail to buildwithgambia@gmail.com.

When and where?

The workshop will take place in Kassi Kunda village in the Upper River Region of eastern Gambia. The workshop is held from March 15th, 2018 to January 15th, 2019. Volunteers can join the workshop anytime for a minimum of two weeks, and the longer you stay the more you will learn and contribute.

What is the goal?

During the workshop we will immerse ourselves in the local lifestyle and explore local traditions, issues and potentials. The goal is to design and build a unit of Kantora Arts Village, a new vocational training center where unemployed rural youths of ages 16 to 25 years undergo a two-year skills development training in vocational arts and earth architecture. The workshop is part of the curriculum of the school, and by participating in the construction of the school the local students will get a chance to learn new skills in a real project.

The building will be designed and built according to principles of sustainable building. Earth construction will be used because of its low environmental impact, local availability and long history in West Africa. Passive design and natural ventilation strategies are used to create comfort in the hot climate without needing to rely on mechanical cooling devices.

It is important that the local community is involved in all stages of the design and construction, so that the resulting building is socially and culturally appropriate. One of the goals of participatory design is to bring out local skills and potentials. The project should give the locals new skills and ideas that will help them drive their own development in a way that is based on local conditions and culture.

Who can participate and why?

For all volunteers, this workshop is a opportunity to learn about the practicalities of earth construction while contributing to community development in Gambia. Everyone is welcome to join, and willingness to learn and share is more important than previous experience or skills. We are all learning from each other, and the more variety there is among the participants, the more perspectives we will have and the better the end result will be.

For architects, engineers and designers the workshop is a chance to get out of the office and into the grassroots. In Gambia you can test your skills in a new context and learn new skills. Participating in a hands-on project will give professionals a different understanding of design and construction that can enhance future work.

For students the workshop is an opportunity to learn by doing and to gain practical experience in a real project. Students can also use the opportunity for internship or thesis. Possible research topics range from technical to artistic to social, including for example participatory design, traditional building techniques, natural ventilation, building materials and local crafts. Be creative and let me know if you have a research idea!

How much does it cost?

There is a 400€ participation fee to join the workshop, and these fees are used to pay for the project (materials, local labour, etc). In addition to this, participants are requested to pay 80€/week for food and homestay accommodation. Flights, visa, vaccinations and insurance are paid by the participant. Especially students are encouraged to apply for grants/scholarships or to do fundraising to help cover costs.

Other ways to help

The easiest way to help is by following the project’s Facebook page and by spreading information about the workshop, for example by sharing this page or the poster below on social media. The workshop is also accepting donations to help cover project costs, please e-mail buildwithgambia@gmail.com if you might consider giving a donation.

Build with Gambia workshop poster