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  • LEM arq

Around the Tree

An award-winning sustainable approach to the African Housing landscape.

Project: Around the Tree | Honorable mention at the African House competition by Archstorming

Venezuelan-based architects: Jesus Goncalves + Azarai Hernandez + Luis Matos + Maria Gabriela Suarez

Project location: Karatu, Tanzania

Around the Tree is a housing model developed with the support of the NGO Un Hogar in Tanzania and the architecture platform Archstorming. We focused on addressing the challenges and limitations that many communities in underdeveloped countries endure, especially in the African context. Understanding the value of natural resources, local construction techniques and the inhabitant’s customs were fundamental components on achieving a sustainable and easy to build house.

The project is proposed as a replicable system, adaptable to different contexts with similar characteristics. In this case, it was developed for a large African family of more than 10 members, the Jorejick. They had no access to basic services such as clean water and electricity, but with an important connection with nature and its surroundings. This closeness is so strong that it's outside and under the trees where many activities that gets the Tanzanian family together occurs such as cooking and eating. This dynamic was the starting point of our design process, as the Acacia Tree and its must-needed shade, became the unifying element of the house. The tree still defines the social areas of the house, with an outdoor kitchen a spacious patio, around of which all spaces gravitate to. This simple-to-build configuration defines a layered border, where the private and the social spaces have different visuals from the outside, while being part of the same unit.

For its feasible construction, the house was designed with a local-based strategy in mind, as materials from the site and family techniques where used. In terms of sustainability, a rainwater collection accompanies the house to cope, in a rationed way, with the dry season. The modular scheme allows for different configurations, but the one that took more advantage of this particular site was the L-shaped one, as the east winds and the indirect lighting from the south was desired, allowing a pleasant climate in the rooms and a convenient light in the social area.

Altogether, a simple construction scheme is achieved, associated with a sustainable and replicable lifestyle that will substantially improve the situation of Tanzanians. It is our goal to implement it at multiple scales for the African landscape in order to strengthen community bonds, around the tree.

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