In 2014 our Nottingham team started collaborating with The University of Nottingham Department of Architecture and Built Environment on their ‘Live Africa’ projects: the design and construction by students of a series of schools in rural areas in South Africa. Steve Wickham, the founding partner of our Nottingham office, and Lois Plaistow, an Associate in Nottingham, have long taught at and worked on projects for the University. It’s been a pleasure over the last three years to help with the structural engineering for two built schools , with a third starting on site this March. Steve and Lois are heading out to South Africa on the 26th of March with a team of Year 2 students and lecturers to work on Project Myemyela, a school in the village of Magoboya in the Limpopo region.
Every year, the department runs an internal competition for the students, with the design that displays the best understanding of the brief, appropriate consideration of materials, resources, time, budget and sustainability, selected to go ahead. The students raise the majority of funds for flights, accommodation and materials themselves, with support from University raised sponsorship.
When the group get to site there is an emphasis on involving the community, consultation and sharing knowledge of methods of construction and design between skilled local craftspeople, the professionals that join the team – like our engineers – and the students. The local children get a well thought out new school building, which their community and those that designed it get to build together, the students get a much deeper understanding of work on site in preparation for their professional careers, we have a chance to experience alternative, hands-on, and sometimes pretty creative ways of thinking around engineering challenges, and the University have so far sent over 300 students on what is an inspirational experience and major draw to their course.
Each year we try and incorporate a new type of construction. The first project we worked on with the University in 2015, the Kagiso Project in Mmakgatlo village within the Limpopo region, involved the design and build of Rabonamo crèche, to include rooms for babies and children, with a separate kitchen, pantry, classrooms, office and sick bay. This building incorporated gum pole columns and perforated brick walls.
In 2016 Project Tshela, also in the Limpopo Region of South Africa, involved the design of a new classroom using on site manufactured ply web beams and used locally manufactured blocks (using the Stumbleblock system)
This year, the Project Myemyela, will have an innovative centrally covered space constructed from steel arches
We wish the villagers of Magoboya, our team, the students, the University, the best of luck with their new school.
Follow or donate: