African vernacular architecture

Documentation for Preservation- creating a data base for the preservation of African Vernacular Architecture

Rants and Raves (1)  Well… I am in Swaziland.  I always wanted to go and it is an incredible country.  This trip so far has had it’s share of ups and downs and I would like to share them.

 

The downs.

 

My checked bag has still not been found!! I did not need it for my trip to Swaziland… though I did have to buy a jumper and a pair of jeans. I last talked to the airline 2 days ago.  I said something about the lost bag and he said it was not “lost”.  I replied that it was not ‘found” as yet so it has to be lost.  Anyways… I have till the 1st to find it because there are some items that I really need for Malawi.

 

Phone service is not cheap… especially calling the States. There are no contracts here.. you just pay as you go along.  It is a crazy thing to observe of how you buy minutes.. plug them into your phone.  You can even share minutes.

 

Internet has been very spotty.  In one of my Air B&B places there was internet… but it was hooked to the hosts computer.  She left one afternoon and being idle it shut off.  So for 5 hours I was unable to go online.  In my current place.. a backpackers lodge outside of baubuna.. you pay for minutes ($3 for 100 minutes) and it has been kinda spotty.

 

Transport.  If you do not have transport it is either expensive to get cabs as it was in Joburg or time consuming for a khumbis in Swazi. An African taxi (khumbi) is a mini-bus that has people packed like sardines.. but it is cheap.  I was warned not to take them in Joburg so I did not.  Today I waited 20 minutes for one to stop outside the backpackers lodge… really not that long of a wait in the whole scheme of things.

 

So really… that is the worst of it.  Next blog I will talk about the positives which there has been many!

One of the things that I wanted to do in South Africa was connect with the Schools of architecture.  I figured as an institution for learning they would be interested in the documentation of vernacular architecture or may even have some in house resources.  So the place that I booked to lodge was near the University of the Witwatersrand. Due to the fact that I was changing lodging locations and dealing with my lost bag (still not found) I did not arrive at the University till late Friday afternoon.
 
As I walked into the building I realized that it was quite empty and was worried that I had come too late. I met a couple of 3rd year students and asked them where I could find some faculty members. They lead me up a ramp that dissected the building and up we went. The 2nd level where staff was located was deserted.. they suggested I try the next level up. That too was deserted but as I walked around I saw one door open with a gentlemen inside reading a newspaper.
 
I knocked.. said hello… introduced myself and explained why I was there. He had this look of what the hell is this guy trying to sell me.  Kind of hard just cold calling someone… but as I continued on it was obvious that he was very interested in what I had to say and we began this great conversation. Turns out he was the head of the department. He suggested a few people that I should talk to. Besides talking about the lack of documentation on vernacular architecture, we also discussed how the Chinese are investing heavily in South Africa and Africa in general. They are building at an astonishing rate and they are building exactly as they would in China with no regards to local (African) concerns.
 

He then took me to the University library to show me the special collection on the history of Johannesburg.. many original documents. We did not go into the room but just outside were portraits and sketches. He left me at the museum where there was an exhibition on hair… yes hair.  All things related to hair from sub- Saharan Africa.  I will not take the time to describe it.. but it was fascinating! And he was proud of the museum space which used to be a car dealership.. and it was a very cool space.

One of the things that I wanted to do in South Africa was connect with the Schools of architecture.  I figured as an institution for learning they would be interested in the documentation of vernacular architecture or may even have some in house resources.  So the place that I booked to lodge was near the University of the Witwatersrand. Due to the fact that I was changing lodging locations and dealing with my lost bag (still not found) I did not arrive at the University till late Friday afternoon.

 

As I walked into the building I realized that it was quite empty and was worried that I had come too late. I met a couple of 3rd year students and asked them where I could find some faculty members. They lead me up a ramp that dissected the building and up we went. The 2nd level where staff was located was deserted.. they suggested I try the next level up. That too was deserted but as I walked around I saw one door open with a gentlemen inside reading a newspaper.

 

I knocked.. said hello… introduced myself and explained why I was there. He had this look of what the hell is this guy trying to sell me.  Kind of hard just cold calling someone… but as I continued on it was obvious that he was very interested in what I had to say and we began this great conversation. Turns out he was the head of the department. He suggested a few people that I should talk to. Besides talking about the lack of documentation on vernacular architecture, we also discussed how the Chinese are investing heavily in South Africa and Africa in general. They are building at an astonishing rate and they are building exactly as they would in China with no regards to local (African) concerns.

 

He then took me to the University library to show me the special collection on the history of Johannesburg.. many original documents. We did not go into the room but just outside were portraits and sketches. He left me at the museum where there was an exhibition on hair… yes hair.  All things related to hair from sub- Saharan Africa.  I will not take the time to describe it.. but it was fascinating! And he was proud of the museum space which used to be a car dealership.. and it was a very cool space.

Just visited the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. To say it was a moving experience is quite the understatement.  The only other similar experience was seeing the Holocaust museum in Washington DC.  They both start off in a similar fashion.  At the Holocaust museum you receive a document of who you are right before you enter n elevator that resembles a train car used to carry people to the camps. At the Apartheid museum you are given a ticket which is “white” or “non-white”.. it really sets the tone.
The building itself is pretty new and has some incredible spaces. It is amazing how architecture can create a mood or a sense.. and this one definetly does just that. There is so much information presented.. I spent well over 4 hours reading every exhibit there. I learned a lot. I am so glad to have had the chance to see it.

Just visited the Apartheid museum in Johannesburg. To say it was a moving experience is quite the understatement.  The only other similar experience was seeing the Holocaust museum in Washington DC.  They both start off in a similar fashion.  At the Holocaust museum you receive a document of who you are right before you enter n elevator that resembles a train car used to carry people to the camps. At the Apartheid museum you are given a ticket which is “white” or “non-white”.. it really sets the tone.

The building itself is pretty new and has some incredible spaces. It is amazing how architecture can create a mood or a sense.. and this one definetly does just that. There is so much information presented.. I spent well over 4 hours reading every exhibit there. I learned a lot. I am so glad to have had the chance to see it.

I have arrived in Africa!!  Getting here was a long and exhausting trip. I thought that two overnight flights would not be a problem… and it really was not. Just not really sleeping for 2 days I guess would tire anybody.
The picture is from Pinterest.. I looked up “Joburg airport” and found this one. No.. that is not what is actually there.. it was created in photoshop. The caption read “This would be perfect for Jo’Burg Airport …you never know if you’ll get your luggage" and it is very appropriate because my bag did not arrive!
Apparently it was still in New York.. the good news being that they are able to track it.  The bad news… it is cold in Joburg right now… the wind is blowing and all I have is t-shirt, shorts and a warm pair of socks.
For lodging in Joburg I am using Airbnb. If you have not heard of it.. basically people rent out a room in their home for a price significantly less than what a hotel room would cost.  My first night was with Patrick and his hospitality was a great start to my trip.  I took a taxi from the airport to his office (not cheap). I was pretty disheveled and he took time from his job to take me to his house to settle me in.  I instantly crashed for 4 hours. His house is lovely… and the bed very comfy.  He is graciously giving me a lift to my next Airbnb location and he also gave me a jumper to stay a bit warmer.  I am very appreciative of his hospitality!!
I am setting up meetings with a few architects in town and will be “walking in” to the school of architecture.
Besides my “delayed” bag… things are going pretty well.

I have arrived in Africa!!  Getting here was a long and exhausting trip. I thought that two overnight flights would not be a problem… and it really was not. Just not really sleeping for 2 days I guess would tire anybody.

The picture is from Pinterest.. I looked up “Joburg airport” and found this one. No.. that is not what is actually there.. it was created in photoshop. The caption read “This would be perfect for Jo’Burg Airport …you never know if you’ll get your luggage" and it is very appropriate because my bag did not arrive!

Apparently it was still in New York.. the good news being that they are able to track it.  The bad news… it is cold in Joburg right now… the wind is blowing and all I have is t-shirt, shorts and a warm pair of socks.

For lodging in Joburg I am using Airbnb. If you have not heard of it.. basically people rent out a room in their home for a price significantly less than what a hotel room would cost.  My first night was with Patrick and his hospitality was a great start to my trip.  I took a taxi from the airport to his office (not cheap). I was pretty disheveled and he took time from his job to take me to his house to settle me in.  I instantly crashed for 4 hours. His house is lovely… and the bed very comfy.  He is graciously giving me a lift to my next Airbnb location and he also gave me a jumper to stay a bit warmer.  I am very appreciative of his hospitality!!

I am setting up meetings with a few architects in town and will be “walking in” to the school of architecture.

Besides my “delayed” bag… things are going pretty well.

Well..

I leave for Africa in 36 hours!!  I am packing my bags… the cat is not coming along.

http://www.robinpopesafaris.net/camps/mkulumadzi.php

Mkulumadzi lodge is located in the Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi.  The reserve only recently became the only “Big 5” park in Malawi and the lodge is quite new.  The lodge was built and is operated by Robin Pope Safaris.  On the their web page they say “Majete Wildlife Reserve is one of the outstanding success stories of African conservation. Granted protected status in 1955, it became the subject of extensive poaching in the 1980s and 1990s. But a concerted joint effort since 2003 by the African Parks Network and the Malawi government - including the reintroduction of endangered species - has turned it into a model of sustainable development and biodiversity. In 2012 Majete became Malawi’s only Big Five Park.” Go to the gallery page… this lodge looks incredible!! I am hoping that I can go and take pictures for the project.  After all… these lodges are built with vernacular materials and in my opinion are vernacular structures… though there are those who would not agree with me.

http://igg,me/at/mudhut

With the research a month away from beginning.. I thought I’d share a little of the logistics. 

With my tight budget… I am able to rent a vehicle for 3 weeks.  So I divided my trip into 3 sections…. The South… The Middle and The North.

These are some of the villages/ towns I plan on traveling to:

The South

September 5th- September 12th.  Areas covered… Nsanje, Ngabu, Chikwawa, Thyolo, Mulanje, Chileka, Zomba, Phalombe, Liwonde, Ntcheu, Chiponde, Nkopolo.

The Middle

September 12th- September 19th.  Areas covered… Dedza, Namitete, Mitundu, Lobi, Kisana, Chipoka, Kasina, Salima, Mopenda, Mbobo, Kasunga, Mchingi, Makanda, Nkhotakata, Mzimba, Euthini, Kafukula.

The North

September 19th- September 26th. Areas covered… Chilumba, Rhumpi, Livingstonia, Karonga, Mwenitete, Kaporo, Laponga, Chitipa, Namatandala, Chisenga, Kapirnkonde, Nythalire, Bolero.

Will keep you updated!

http://igg.me/at/mudhut

http://www.pinterest.com/africanarch/pintrest/

Did you know I have a Pintrest board? I believe I have the most number of pins on African vernacular architecture… 800+ The pictures are stunning and quite beautiful.  It really showcases the diversity from country to country.  I hope to fill up a board with pictures from Malawi!

http://igg.me/at/mudhut

This is the The Malawi Polytechnic University in Blantyre.  I am working on having a symposium with faculty and students of the School of Built Environment when I arrive in Malawi in early September.  It is important to hear from Malawians about what they think about documenting the vernacular architecture… and what better place then at the Polytech!!

http://igg.me/at/mudhut

http://igg.me/at/mudhut

For my Indie GoGo campaign I decided to create a hand drawn animation. I never did one before and I had no plan “B”… it had to work!

The 3 minute animation consisted of 1,500+ individual sketches.. and I am extremely happy with the results.