Seeds for Africa: A Community Center in Tanzania, East Africa
The accompanying plates are a synthesis of three years of research, travel and implementation in and out of Africa. They express the cultural collision / infusion between organic African architecture and Western and Middle Eastern influences. They also represent the proposed and ongoing construction of a community center prototype in Kijungu, Tanzania, a settlement recently "villagized" by government mandate. This project has been a vehicle to explore the Tanzanian village as a filter of cultural influences through which the vernacular is evolving. The plates and the project should be viewed as a mitigator of short-sighted government intervention as well as a proposed step in the ideal evolution of a village.
This project is concerned, in the broadest sense, with the process of villagization in Tanzania, the gathering together of dispersed and nomadic tribes which is seen by the government as an essential first step to rural development. The goal of villagization is unity, so that "Ujamaa"(Tanzanian socialism rooted in African communal traditions) can be lived out at the grass roots level. In the many areas where villagization has been imposed, this unity is incomplete. Instead of cohesive village organisms living out the principles of "Ujamaa" in an enthusiastic march toward human development and social reform, there are diffuse settlements of families living in close proximity to one another but not in cooperation with each other. Where people are gathered but not cooperating, this is not village. A vehicle beyond ideology is needed to help create unity.
The proposed solution to the problem of unity was the construction of a community center (with local labor and materials) where village economy, culture, and education could take place. The center provides community identity and a sense of "placeness" necessary for cooperation and cohesion in village life. It also mitigates the social and environmental upheaval created by villagization and has the potential to reestablish a balance between culture, technology and the natural environment. It is hoped that in time this "seed" of three cultures will act as a reference for community development and as a model for an evolving vernacular.
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