African Off-Grid Housing [AOH]

Paolo Cascone

Research Team: Maria Christina Georgiadou, Maddalena Laddaga, Benson Lau, Rosa Schiano Phan

Special thanks to: Lindsay Bremner and discussion panel participants: Conor Black (Arup), Claudia Loggia and Dr Viloshin Govender (University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban), Vincent Kitio (UN-Habitat, Nairobi), Mark Raymond (GSA, University of Johannesburg)

THE AFRICAN OFF-GRID HOUSING PROJECT investigates how to design and build affordable housing solutions for the African sub-Saharan context. The research project considers how innovative knowledge can bridge traditional and advanced design strategies, as well as construction technologies, in response to climate change and the urgent need for affordable housing in Africa.

The project’s research-by-design methodology is informed by the analytical study of the relationship between the architectural geometry, material systems and environmental performances of a set of pre-colonial and contemporary precedents in relation to their climatic context. According to this initial analysis, the project developed a ‘design-to-build’ tool to test the design methodology, using a paradigmatic case study in Cameroon and an environmental design parametric approach.

The form-finding process of the initial vernacular housing genotype was informed by the negotiation between the site-specific climatic conditions, the spatial and energy needs of local users, and the material systems available on- site. The initial performative criteria included consideration of self-sufficiency for upgrading informal housing scenarios in relation to energy, water and food accessibility.

The design methodology and computer model are conceived to be adapted to specific social and climatic scenarios. The housing configurations developed use recycled and local materials to upgrade off- grid community housing, generating the possibility for site-specific variations within a broadly scaleable strategy. The project has been presented at the International Conference on Evolving Cities (ICEC2021), at the Radical Architecture Practice for Sustainability (RAPS International Conference 2021, Bristol UWE) and the London Festival of Architecture in June 2022.

MORE is a part of Open Studio project run by the School of Architecture + Cities at the University of Westminster to make its design, research and practice-based work available online while it is happening.

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