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Architecture students build trade school in Nairobi

Since 2007, Hermann Kaufmann has been practicing Design Build in his professorship for design and building in wood at the Technical University in Munich. Students from Germany work with local workers in Africa to construct buildings that serve the community. The result is a win-win situation: the future architects gain experience in practical work, and the local people profit from institutions whose simple constructions can easily be copied by their own tradespeople. The trade school in Nairobi has been the subject of particular attention. A time-lapse video shows how students from the TU in Munich and Augsburg’s University of Applied Sciences built the roof construction of bamboo supports and metal sheeting in March 2012.

The complex comprises four buildings, each of which defines a different free area. The façades, made of massive natural stonemasonry, reflect local building traditions, while the use of fast-growing, native bamboo represents an alternative, still unusual in Kenya, to wood or metal. Project groups in Munich and Nairobi first tested the building materials for their capacity and versatility. They then developed the supporting structure for the roof. In Kenya, local workers started preparing the foundation well in advance. The first group of German and Kenyan students, working with local tradespeople, created the masonry and brickwork parts of the building’s shell. Subsequently, the second group carried out the work required for the concrete and bamboo components of the roof construction.Heavy rainfall in the Aberdare mountain range led to delays in the delivery of bamboo. This in turn delayed the building process. However, the bamboo was used down to the last stem: lower-quality culms were used for scaffolding, sawhorses, building-site doors and toilet walls. Leftover pieces, finished as a thin mesh, cover door and windowsills. The once undeveloped property lot now boasts a photovoltaic installation which generates power for the complex. Rainwater use, dry toilets and an organic water treatment system are novelties for this region. 

One of the first lessons for the German students was how to improvise. Problems like delayed deliveries from local building-supply shops or doors in the wrong size meant they had to think quickly in order to find alternatives. The approaching rainy season added a certain amount of pressure, especially when it came to completing the roof. In the work on the building shell, the students worked alongside the local workers, hammering stones into the desired shape, then laying and mortaring them. The ring anchors were cemented into place in wooden casings by the students themselves. They exploited the few available boards until these were worn beyond any possible further use.

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Project data

Client: Promoting Africa , Youth Support Kenya

Project management assistance: Matthias Kestel, Christoph Perl

Students' desing group: Thomas Horejschi, Felix Haberstumpf, Hannes Hofmann, Ulrike Kiesel, Serafina Eipert, Valentin Popp, Maximilian Langwieder

Structural engineering of the bamboo construction: Hannes Hofmann, Stefan Krötsch, Thomas Horejschi, Susanne Gampfer

Consultant bamboo construction: Andry Widyowijatnoko, RWTH Aachen

Structural engineering for masonry and reinforced concrete: Stefan Krötsch

Consultant for masonry and reinforced concrete: Ingenieurbüro Kaspar and Teuteberg; Edwin Murgor, JKUAT

This article is taken out of the following magazine:
DETAIL 12/2014

Simple Forms of Construction

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