Namuwongo Community Green Living Demonstration Centre

Esenu Charity Aipikor
Makerere University

Project idea

Namuwongo Community Green Living Demonstration Centre is a community-based project located in Soweto Slum, Namuwongo in Kampala, Uganda.

The project aims to tackle economic, social and environmental sustainability for the residents of Namuwongo informal settlement through the use of biophilic design. Located in a flood-prone zone adjascent to a large wetland, the project aimed to enable proper ground-water infiltration, use of affordable preferably locally sourced materials to maintain the aesthetic and architectural language in the context, recycled materials to reduce strain on landfills, solar electricity generation as most residents could not afford Hydro electricity.

The project also aims to demonstrate the intangible benefits of green spaces which include reduced stress, reduced mental fatigue and calming spaces which are necessary due to the strain on the mind brought about by urban life.

In general, this project would be a space for economic empowerment, maintain and strengthen the continuity of the inherently powerful social bonds existing in the settlement, and attempt to reduce the strain on the wetland that the settlement is currently putting.

Project description

The main goal of the project is to demonstrate green living to the residents of Namuwongo informal settlement, using biophilic design as a strategy. For the project to be a success and considering the context, the project required to tackle economic, social and environmental sustainability. In this regard, the site was zoned in four ways;

1. Commercial areas
-Farmer's market which was a space where the residents could sell agricultural produce to themselves as well as people from upper Namuwongo.
-Recycler's market which was a space where residents could process and sell re-used and or recycled materials for economic empowerment. This was important, not just to reduce the strain on landfills, but also to provide employment for the residents, particularly the youth most of whom collect and sell scrap for a living.
-"Food hub" and underground restaurant which was a space to attract people from upper Namuwongo for meals. This would not only provide employment for the residents, but also attempt to break social barriers that exist between upper and lower Namuwongo by bringing the two groups of people together in one space.
-Crafts Market which is a space where the residents would exhibit and sell hand-made crafts, as well as demonstrate the use of handmade structures that the residents normally live in.

2. Sensory Areas were areas that were intentionally designed to demonstrate the intangible psychological benefits of green design and green living. These spaces were aimed at providing restorative benefits to their users who are under extreme stress from poverty and violence.
- Green roof and one viewing garden at points of prospect where people could have uninterrupted views which is uncommon in the settlement currently.
-Two escape gardens located adjascet to the Farmer's market and recyclers market for shoppers as well as workers to have a quiet escape from the chaos and noise characterising Ugandan markets today.
- Bioswale garden which not only doubles as a water retention garden but also as a calming space that the presence of water provides. This garden also enables the growth of native swamp plants that are dying out due to human activities in the wetland.

It should be noted that the paths were strategically designed after studying the staggered and indirect way of movement in the settlement, and the sensory spaces located along these paths so that people navigating the site unconsciously encounter sensory spaces.

3. Social areas are those that maintain and strengthen the existing social bonds through continuity of the community way of life in the settlement.
-Community Garden is a space where residents can grow food in groups and help each other acquire equipment, manpower and capital. This space was particularly important because studies have shown that the urban poor in Uganda spend up to 85% of their income on food. This therefore can be used to supplement diet and reduce economic strain. The community garden also demonstrates technologies such as hydroponics, aquaponics, trough and tower gardening among others.
-Community Library is a public learning space for people, particularly children whose parents cannot afford education. It also strategically provides reading material on nature oriented design, plant species and environmentally friendly ways of life.
-"Meeting Alcoves" are small pockets of space designed for private meetings. This was necessary as site analysis showed that people in the settlement lacked space within and around their homes to have private meetings due to the very small size of indoor spaces, as well as the extreme congestion of structures that left barely any room for circulation.
-Amphitheatre is a public space where the community could have gatherings such as campaigns, elections, sports, concerts etc, since they lacked a large open space where they could do so.
- Children's playground is a safe space designed for children of residents who would otherwise be playing in the polluted wetland which puts them at risk of chemical poisoning and disease. The space is also strategically located for workers at the recyclers market to be able to watch over the children.

4. Environmentally Sustainable areas are a more "passive" zone that can not be categorised as a space or structure but as fittings added to buildings to reduce strain on the environment as well as provide clean energy. They include use of recycled materials, especially scrap metal, rain water harvesting systems, solar energy generation, ground water infiltration systems and simple grey water harvesting systems. The use of green walls on the library is also used to reduce solar heat gain, as this is the largest facade in the project.

Technical information

The technical information includes the following;

-Plans (3 detail plans of the site i.e. ground floor, lower ground floor and first lower ground floor, showing all 37 buildings on 3 different levels, a site plan, a location plan, 2 building plans of the community library, 1 building plan of the farmer's market, 1 building plan of the Recycler's market, 1 building plan of the meeting alcoves, 1 building plan of the crafts market, 1 building plan of the amphitheatre)
-Sections (General site section, 1 library section, 1 section through crafts market, 2 sections through farmer's market, sketch section of market escape garden, 1 section through amphitheatre, 1 section through meeting alcoves)
-Design Elevations ( 1 elevation of the crafts market and 1 sketch elevation of the crafts market, 2 elevations of the Recycler's market, 4 elevations of the community library, 2 elevations of the amphitheatre, 1 elevation of the meeting alcoves)
- Details (sketch foundation detail of the crafts market, 1 detail of the green roof of the markets and underground restaurant, 2 sketch details of amphitheatre column, 1 cross section detail of amphitheatre roof and foundation, 1 section detail of "living" tyre retaining wall, 1 detail of green wall of community library, 1 plant holder detail for community library green wall
-Visualization (3ds of the site including building, services and sensory spaces, site photographs taken by the author, computer generated 3ds of the space, hand drawn 3d sketch of planters made with tyres)


No co-authors

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