|The Nineth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2007|
Forced migration continues to affect the lives of many across the world. Sudan, the largest country in Africa, currently faces the world’s largest human displacement crisis. While conflicts such as those in Darfur are considered a major cause, another equally important reason behind the uncontrollable exodus to the congested capital Khartoum and other smaller cities is uneven economic development. Therefore, in response to current organizational efforts directed at marginalized areas, my focus will be to develop architectural solutions that can contribute to the rebuilding of sustainable, self-sufficient communities in order to play a role in reversing the displacement process.
Although Sudan is endowed with a rich, yet shrinking, natural resource base, development-induced displacement is strongly tied to poor resource management. This in turn leads to exacerbated local conflict and the perpetuation of poverty. Henceforth, I have chosen as target population the villages in and around the Dinder National Park in Eastern Sudan. Established in 1935, the Park is one of the two designated, yet threatened, Biosphere Reserves in Sudan. It is a complex of 40 wetlands formed from the seasonal Rahad and Dinder Rivers, characterized by paramount ecological and historical significance. The local population is diverse and constitutes settled and nomadic tribes that respectively practice agriculture and pastoralism.
Given the immense strain on diminishing resources, there is great potential for resource-based conflict between the impoverished pastoralists and farmers. However, one of the major problems faced by the population, which poses a threat to biodiversity conservation, is the lack of access to environmentally sustainable energy resources and building materials. A “Photovoltaic Initiative” was introduced to promote solar energy as substitute to fuel wood. However, the use of wood in building construction, and as fuel for brick-burning, will continue unless economically viable, environmentally-friendly alternatives are introduced.
Stemming from a strong belief in the role ecotourism can play as mechanism for economic and environmental revitalization, my proposal is the construction of self-sufficient tourist lodging units. Due to the current lack of amenities, there have been no incentives for tourist-related development. In an attempt to solve the problem, a few units and amenities for tourists were constructed as part of an experimental building project that explored materials such as stabilized earth blocks and ferro-cement. However, post-occupancy studies proved they were not very successful.
Through the utilization of appropriate construction materials and methods, newly constructed units can serve as prototypes for future development within the surrounding village communities. The material to be employed for construction is bamboo, as it is abundantly available, yet not fully investigated beyond rudimentary vernacular applications. An experimental, integrated design-build process that attempts to explore the potential of bamboo alongside other environmentally sustainable, contextually appropriate building systems is what I envision as my contribution towards a solution for the identified problems. It will not necessarily directly ameliorate the pending socio-economic conditions, but it can perhaps provide ways through which sustainable development will not only become possible, but also progressive.
I would like to partner with INBAR in bringing this project to life.
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