Our studio will aim to challenge the very design strategies and architectural tropes that you have become familiar with during your previous two years at Yale. We hope to expand your understanding of who architecture can be for by highlighting the myopic vision most contemporary design has in regards to user, location, material and process. The idea is to dismantle any notion of “norm” in architecture and thus open up space for the development of new paths of design thinking and a “new” kind of architecture.
The studio will consider the informal settlements of Burkina Faso—a country in the Sahel region of Africa—as places of inquiry and inspiration. You will learn to approach a space which is unfamiliar to most contemporary architectural practices, and to understand that space—and its building practices—as having inherent design ingenuity.
In order to understand and experience the building materials and community structures available within the neighborhoods and towns of Burkina Faso, the studio will visit various settlements in Ouagadougou, the capital city, as well as other outlying villages within the country. Based on our experiences here, you will be challenged to develop architectural concepts that respond to substandard living conditions, socio-spatial exclusion and overall lack of infrastructure.
In an era of extreme urbanization and rapid growth, informal settlements and slums are a global phenomenon. On the African continent alone, over half of the urban population live in slums, and by 2050, Africa’s urban dwellers are projected to have increased from 400 million to 1.2 billion. Despite the development of such densely populated areas being the (future) home to a large portion of humanity, they are too often left out of a contemporary architectural discourse. This results in students of architecture spending little to no part of their education understanding this phenomenon as one of the largest urban design challenges existing today.
It is in such spaces that “architecture without architects” takes place and “habitats made by people” are created. These places are often adapted over time to meet a community’s needs in an incremental way; one that relies heavily on the participation of the very community to which these structures belong.
Travel week is designed for you to come face-to-face with the theoretical research you will have conducted prior. This is not only to bolster your preliminary findings but also to help identify any assumptions you may need to revise. In addition, the trip is designed for you to get your hands dirty through taking part in participative building approaches.
Upon returning from the trip, you will create a “mental map” of what you have seen as the departure point for developing an architectural response. You will be asked to respond to the settlement patterns you witnessed firsthand, and to design an individual piece of the puzzle; a building or buildings.
Some of the programs we are considering:
During this process you will be asked to construct a 1:1 scale mock-up, using whatever cheap and/or available materials are handy—to stress the idea of resourcefulness and invention in everything you do.