Start 2017

Centres Généreux - Congo

/ Words

North Kivu has been under a lot of restrains in the previous decades. The villages in the territory of Beni have all had their share in harsh violence, due to the ongoing conflict between the state military and different guerilla groups.

Dimitri Moreels (COPAC), our partner in this project aims to establish a social meeting place, physically, as well as virtually through a social security system which provides a basic income, a basic schooling and a basic healthcare for his farmers in the region. The project is run together with the local Cooperatives Agricoles, and Wild Studies will participate in designing centres généreux (generous centers) for four different villages in the jungle. These rural areas are densely populated and often very difficult to access. We visited four different sites where the organization wishes to construct over a period of 5 years a place to meet, a place to learn and a place to heal. In this preliminary fieldtrip it became clear that the villagers dream of huge, ‘modern’ concrete hospitals and schools, as they are used to see being built by Western aid programs.

There have been 4 communities selected and Halungupa will be the first to collaborate with. In this village of 30.000 inhabitants, spread over the brousse, there is a need for 1500 children to attend primary school. There are a few private schools, but according to our partners there is no public school. The village has no hospital, there are a few dispensary’s, which are not much more than a hut, a nurse and access to very basic medication. Nor is there a place for meeting, leisure and entertainment.

The centres généreux will be physical spaces, where the different needs can be met, and which can grow organically over the years, dependently on the changing demands and participation of the local communities. The design process will be fully participatory and iterative.

Because of the large gap between the desires and hopes of the villages and the reality of the building possibilities, we decided to cut this project up in different building stages, starting with a rather small pavilion that can be built fast, and that in its use will define its functions.

It is very important that the centres généreux will be locally built and taken care of. In order for the local community to be fully engaged in the project, a first sort of gateway will be constructed by themselves on the plot. From there in co-design we will understand how the local community uses the building and how they themselves see it grow. The pavilion, which has the symbolic form of a gate, will later on become the entrance to the larger project. Initially it is a space to instigate trust, connection and celebration.

Three essential elements to bring back some harmony and hope to the disrupted communities

01.  Trust

The trust in building something themselves and the reactivation of trust in their own, local knowledge

02.  Connection

The experience to create something together; as a village and as citizens of the world. The Western roof is a symbolic link to the ‘modern’ world, the possibility to charge batteries of phones is a practical & direct connection with the outside world, and the possibility to use the space as a learning centre connects the villagers with new helpful knowledge for their everyday existence.

03.  Celebration

A space of the community to celebrate togetherness through simple gatherings. Shade, music, and playfulness through hanging party lights.

The other buildings will be designed and constructed time sequential. Having learned from our previous experiences in Nepal on how difficult it is to motivate local people to be involved in the building process, we approach the process as a mutual collaboration, in which we only continue designing, after the villagers have finished the first building and appropriated and maintained it properly.

This project is rather a process than a building, which hopes to enhance step by step the social meshwork of the village, by creating a central space for meeting (formal and informally), for transferring primary and essential topics to the farmers and the families (through the social security program of COPAC & Cooperatives Agricoles), for literally charging the phones as a way to communication with the outside world. By building this pavilion themselves, the local community will not only embrace the ‘modern’ looking steel shelter roof, the local building elements in rammed earth, based on the local huts will empower the local building knowledge and bring an awareness on their own cultural identity of which they can be very proud.

/ Process

The building process will start in the summer of 2018, with the construction of one centre (gateway) with multiple possibilities and purposes.

  • The building must give a feeling of hope.
  • The building must be maintained at least one year by the local people, before we continue the building process.
  • Raising awareness and bringing people together is the main preliminary function of this (generous) building.

The design of the building will hold:

  • an information centre of the aims of CPAD & COPAC
  • a big shelter to welcome different activities
  • a vegetable garden
  • a stage
  • boards to hang posters, black boards as means to give basic classes
  • solar panels to charge phones and other small electric utensils
  • other functions which need little maintenace and which have an awareness raising role, in such a way that they can be used and even be exemplary for the farmers to copy at home.

For a detailed overview of the whole process please download our pdf.

/ Research

in collaboration with

CPAD & COPAC + arch. Xiani Lunga